About

September 9, 2010

This blog will be a collection of material focusing on the biological and social anthropology of Italy and Italian people around the world. Topics will be varied and include physical anthropology, population genetics, phenotypes, aesthetics, art, history, language, politics, economics, crime, immigration, intelligence, education, and popular culture, among others.

An underlying aim will be to refute falsehoods about Italians spread by Afrocentrists, Nordicists and Northern Italian supremacists, as well as the misinformation that these falsehoods have given rise to elsewhere in society, including among a subset of Italians obsessed with current notions of "whiteness" and "anti-defamation" who, although in the minority, tend to dominate discussions about Italian ethnic identity.

Whatever your point of view or area of interest, you'll find something here to inform or get you thinking. Feel free to leave comments on individual posts. Just remember to be civil, write clearly, proofread and preview, don't troll or spam, and stay on topic. General comments about the blog can be left below.

Thank you for reading, and don't forget to subscribe to receive updates.

23 comments

Anonymous said...

Buon lavoro!

onur said...

From the DNA Tribes results it is clear that Southern Italians (as well as Greeks) are genetically much more Middle Eastern (NOT NEGROID!) than Northern and Central Italians (look at Figures 1 and 2):

http://www.dnatribes.com/sample-results/dnatribes-global-survey-regional-affinities.pdf

Italianthro said...

There's nothing in that pdf about Northern or Southern Italians. And besides, DNA Tribes is a commercial genetic testing company that's basically garbage. Didn't you read what I said above about not trolling?

onur said...

There's nothing in that pdf about Northern or Southern Italians.

That is simply not true. Also if you read the population descriptions in the DNA Tribes website, you will see that Southern Italians and Sicilians (also Greeks and Turks, but not Sardinians, as Sardinians are genetically much more like Central and Northern Italians and Corsicans, see Figure 3 in the pdf) are explicitly mentioned as belonging to the Aegean genetic group (which is a subset of the Near/Middle Eastern genetic group according to the worldwide NJT in the pdf):

http://www.dnatribes.com/populations.html

And besides, DNA Tribes is a commercial genetic testing company that's basically garbage.

On what grounds do you make that claim? Genetic testing companies generally have very large sample sizes, thus they are ideal tools for detecting real population affinities and groupings. Moreover, DNA Tribes is one of the biggest, most scientific and most accredited of all the genetic testing companies; it uses the autosomal STR genetic markers used by the FBI for individual identification in forensics and by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Didn't you read what I said above about not trolling?

I don't think what I am doing is trolling. You wrote that general comments about the blog can be left in this thread, so I sent my first comment thinking that it is directly relevant to the general subjects of this blog.

Italianthro said...

>>> the Aegean genetic group (which is a subset of the Near/Middle Eastern genetic group according to the worldwide NJT in the pdf)

The "Aegean" group includes half of Turkey, so it's not surprising that it clusters with the Near East. Likewise, the "Mediterranean" group includes half of France and part of Germany. That tells us nothing about Northern or Southern Italians. Figure 3 dispenses with that nonsense and divides Italy into "Italian" and "Greek" sections, which is still simplistic but more in line with history and other genetic research.

>>> On what grounds do you make that claim?

Genetic testing companies have been heavily criticized for their poor methodologies. They're businesses out to make money, and they aren't subject to peer-review.

>>> I don't think what I am doing is trolling. You wrote that general comments about the blog can be left in this thread

Don't play dumb.

onur said...

The "Aegean" group includes half of Turkey, so it's not surprising that it clusters with the Near East. Likewise, the "Mediterranean" group includes half of France and part of Germany. That tells us nothing about Northern or Southern Italians. Figure 3 dispenses with that nonsense and divides Italy into "Italian" and "Greek" sections, which is still simplistic but more in line with history and other genetic research.

Do you think their grouping Southern Italians, Sicilians, Greeks and most of ethnic Turks (i.e., excluding Kurds) together is completely artificial?

Genetic testing companies have been heavily criticized for their poor methodologies. They're businesses out to make money, and they aren't subject to peer-review.

True, but that doesn't make them garbage. There are many honest and trustworthy scientists working in them.

Don't play dumb.

I didn't mean to annoy or bother you. You and I have more agreements than disagreements. Our main disagreement is that you have Eurocentrist views while I am more balanced towards Caucasoids as a whole.

Italianthro said...

>>> Do you think their grouping Southern Italians, Sicilians, Greeks and most of ethnic Turks (i.e., excluding Kurds) together is completely artificial?

They share common ancestry (Neolithic and Greek) but they're different. Using hybrid Ashkenazi Jews as a reference point, we can see that Southern Italians and Greeks cluster on the "European" side of AJs, while Turks cluster on the "Middle Eastern" side:

http://img229.imageshack.us/img229/420/priceplotsm4.png

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/.../s1600/westeurasianpca.jpg

>>> True, but that doesn't make them garbage. There are many honest and trustworthy scientists working in them.

I'm not questioning their integrity, just stating the fact that they're businesses first and foremost. Then there's the problem of the poor methodology. That's why I stick to peer-reviewed, published research.

>>> Our main disagreement is that you have Eurocentrist views while I am more balanced towards Caucasoids as a whole.

I see, so you wanted to "cure me" of my "Eurocentrism".

onur said...

They share common ancestry (Neolithic and Greek) but they're different. Using hybrid Ashkenazi Jews as a reference point, we can see that Southern Italians and Greeks cluster on the "European" side of AJs, while Turks cluster on the "Middle Eastern" side:

In the first PCA plot you posted, Greeks and Italians are on the same upper left to lower right diagonal axis with Askenazi Jews while north Europeans (including Poles) and Spaniards are positioned on the upper right side of it. Deviation of AJs from all Europeans to the upper left direction has nothing to do with Middle Easternness, as Middle Eastern populations are normally expected to be positioned on the lower left side of the Greeks and Italians. Deviation of AJs is most probably to do with the drifts and bottlenecks that affected AJ gene pool because of their low population size and endogamy during the Middle Ages and the early modern era. A similar deviation of AJs is seen in another study:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Ish7688voT0/THbUXTYkSsI/AAAAAAAACjA/4kfKIzxH7GY/s1600/ashkenazi.jpg

Notice that here Middle Eastern populations are on the same roughly U-shaped axis with Europeans whereas AJs very clearly deviate from it, but other than that AJs are on the same vertical axis with Adygeis, a peripheral population positioned between Europeans and Middle Easterners.

In the second PCA plot you posted, there are no samples from Southern Italy (Tuscans are Central Italian, not Southern), Sicily and Greece, so it doesn't prove anything.

I'm not questioning their integrity, just stating the fact that they're businesses first and foremost. Then there's the problem of the poor methodology. That's why I stick to peer-reviewed, published research.

Likewise, I prefer peer-reviewed and published research, but such research is often inadequate in sample sizes and number of populations, so sometimes I turn to the published results of genetic testing companies, which in general have very large sample sizes and populations from all corners of the world together, to fill in the blanks.

I see, so you wanted to "cure me" of my "Eurocentrism".

There is nothing wrong with being Eurocentrist. We just should try to be as least biased as possible when dealing with population genetics, that is all.

Maybe our biggest mistake is assuming -intentionally or not - a boundary (genetic or not) between Europe and the Middle East, maybe these two regions must be less clearly defined.

Italianthro said...

Well, we don't have any plots with both Turks and Southern Italians on them, so I have to rely on several plots used together to demonstrate the fallacy of your European "Mediterranean" and Middle Eastern "Aegean" clusters. Here's a better plot in which Southern Italians cluster near Tuscans and Spaniards, separate from the Middle Eastern samples. Now recall that in the plot I posted before, Tuscans and Spaniards are far away from Turks, who cluster (on the other side of AJs) with Iranians and people from the Caucasus. All of which makes perfect geographical sense.

P.S. Speaking of trying not to be biased about population genetics, someone has replied to you on their blog regarding your reliance on DNA Tribes and what he suspects is your motivation:

http://hippoexposed.blogspot.com/2010/09/onur-nec-flim-flam-man.html

onur said...

Well, I can find you numerous examples showing Italians, Greeks and Turks genetically closer to each other than to northern European populations like these:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Ish7688voT0/R4aBpZcxH4I/AAAAAAAAAEw/rCvdWN1dOhU/s1600-h/russians.jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ro2ijOk8JWc/SLs7sALkwoI/AAAAAAAAATs/sa2Ig1gv31M/s1600-h/novembre.jpg

There are also examples showing Caucasoids more chaotically scattered on the plot like this one:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_-qIGO-1web0/St_hWBVK3ZI/AAAAAAAAABw/QdbB_lAarxY/s1600-h/mtdna.jpg

These and countless similar examples demonstrate that drawing lines between Caucasoid populations is arbitrary. So maybe one shouldn't make much of genetic analyses (including those of DNA Tribes) of Caucasoid populations.

As to my ethnic identity, yes, I am a Turk, and I have never concealed my ethnic identity. My blogger username onur is at the same time my real first name (my surname is Dinçer BTW) and it is a first name exclusive to people from Turkey (you can just use Google to understand that). You can call me confused, though it is very easy to get confused today given the often conflicting nature of genetic information in population genetics, but agenda-driven I'm not. My thoughts about genetics fluctutate with fluctuations in genetic knowledge.

onur said...

If you want an example from a STRUCTURE-like analysis, again there is no shortage of examples.

For example, this one shows Tuscans (a Central Italian population) as close to being fifty-fifty European-Middle Eastern "hybrid":

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Ish7688voT0/TEdkGu1xYWI/AAAAAAAACgo/w5znxJ23pTo/s1600/admixture-xing.jpg

But if you do not accept the Nordicist nonsense that Europeans are genetically separated from Middle Easterners enough to draw a line between them, then Tuscans don't seem like a hybrid population but as a natural part of the European-Middle Eastern genetic continuum.

Italianthro said...

The third plot is just mtDNA, so not very informative. The second one shows Turks as being distinct from Southern Europeans. And the first one I've seen somewhere before but I'm not that familiar with it. As to the STRUCTURE chart, if you look at the plot that accompanies it, you can see that Tuscans cluster with other Europeans.

There's nothing "arbitrary" about drawing lines between Caucasoids. They're geographically separated by the Mediterranean Sea, and this has led to genetic differentiation. Turks, however, occupy a transitional zone, bridging Europe and Asia. So I suppose western Turks would cluster near Greeks, while eastern Turks would be closer to Iranians.

Of course, all Caucasoids share common ancestry. No one is denying that.

onur said...

There's nothing "arbitrary" about drawing lines between Caucasoids. They're geographically separated by the Mediterranean Sea, and this has led to genetic differentiation.

Of course. The Mediterranean Sea is really a very effective genetic barrier. So we see a genetic continuum among Caucasoids that is usually U shaped in the Mediterranean Basin, circumambulating the Mediterranean Sea.

The second plot has only 4 Turkish individuals, so it is very hard to make conclusions about Turks from it.

I think one of the biggest problems in such studies is that "transitional" populations like Turks are often underrepresented and also they aren't studied with a region-based approach.

onur said...

As to the STRUCTURE chart, if you look at the plot that accompanies it, you can see that Tuscans cluster with other Europeans.

Yes, but again, "transitional" populations are lacking (i.e., there are no populations from the Balkans or Anatolia).

Caudium said...

That "Aegean" sector started with Naples and worked southwards, so it's suffice to say that a good chunk of what's considered southern Italy would cluster with north/central.

Either way, DNATribes has a bit of a laughable reputation amongst those in the know. Even Dr. MacDonald, who is famed in DNA Forums for his Global Similarity Plots doesn't even bother with DNATribes, subscribing only to 23andME and deCODEME. DNATribes doesn't even have a table of data to go with the map, and from what I've read they use much fewer markers than their competition. It's cheap and their results show. What? Portuguese are 10% Uralic? LOL. Am I really supposed to trust a methodology that churns out results like those??

DNATribes is like the retarded step-brother to 23andME and deCODEme.

onur said...

Caudium, I've heard that deCODEme inflates minority components, so probably it isn't so reliable. 23andMe may be the best in terms of measuring ancestry, but I am not sure of that. Also several times I've heard that FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) is good. So I am confused. I don't know what Italianthro thinks about these issues.

Tom Verso said...

I'm internet challenged so I can't figure out how to "subscribe" to get updates. I click on the "subscribe" link but it doesn't give me any place to 'subscribe'. If you could help that would be nice.
Also, I have been blogging over at i-Italy,org "South of Rome-West of Ellis Island" for about four years on the same theme as this site. So I'm happy to have discovered you just by accident.
Tom Verso

Italianthro said...

Tom,

At the top of the next page, select what service you want to use from the drop-down menu (like Google or Yahoo) and then click the "Subscribe Now" button. You'll be asked to log in to your account if you're not already. Then follow whatever instructions are given there.

Though if you don't already check a feed subscription service regularly for other sites, it probably won't be of much use. You might want to try a service like FeedMyInbox or BlogTrottr instead, which will send updates to your email address. They're free and don't require registration.

theseventhstranger1 said...

Excuse me, but you didn't understand the Lega Nord.
Do you think those northern Italians of the Lega with brown hair and eyes believe to look like the German with blonde hair and blue eyes?
It's a matter of different attitudes and other problems, and nothing to do with the ''race''.
You made a page full of mistakes.

Italianthro said...

There are many Lega Nord supporters on the web who are also racialists and white nationalists, and they mix up the economic and other problems with "race". They're the ones I'm refuting.

Nero said...

What a remarkable blog, keep up the great work friend!

David Ashton said...

Your views on Guido Landra would be appreciated.

Italie emigratieverhalen said...

Hi

I discovered your nice blog about Italy. I only just started my own as a Dutch expat living in Italy. Check it out at http://italiaanse-toestanden.duepadroni.it/living-italy-expat if you want. I live in the Oltrepo Pavese wine region south of Milan, maybe you have heard about it? We run a bed and breakfast there, www.duepadroni.it

I wondered if we could listand link to each other as blogs "to follow" on our blogger.com profile? That way we will both rank higher and receive more visitors.

Let me know what you think,
Cari saluti
Stef
Author of Living in Italy: the Real Deal