Italian Immigrant Stereotypes Dispelled

November 22, 2010

The following is an excerpt from an article written around the turn of the 20th century by the Director of the Immigration Publication Society in New York. It's noteworthy because of the statistics it contains that dispel stereotypes about Italian criminality and poverty compared to other European ethnic groups in the Greater New York area (mostly Irish, but also Jews, Germans and Anglos).

Lies have short legs, the Florentine tag has it, but the Italian is still accused of being a degenerate, a lazy fellow and a pauper, half a criminal, a present danger, and a serious menace to our civilization. If there is a substantial basis of truth in these charges, it must appear very clearly in Greater New York, which is now disputing Rome's place as the third largest Italian city in the world. Moreover, New York contains nearly two fifths of all the Italians in the United States, and in proportion to its size it is the least prosperous Italian colony in the country, and shelters a considerable part of our immigrant failures — those who cannot fall into step with the march of American life.

First, as to the paupers. The Italian inhabitants of New York City number nearly 450,000; the Irish, somewhat over 300,000. In males — the criminal sex — the Italians outnumber the Irish about two to one. Yet by a visit to the great almshouse on Blackwell's Island and an examination of the unpublished record for 1904, I found that during that year 1564 Irish had been admitted, and only 16 Italians. Mr. James Forbes, the chief of the Mendicancy Department of the Charity Organization Society, tells me that he has never seen or heard of an Italian tramp. As for begging, between July 1, 1904, and September 30, 1905, the Mendicancy Police took into custody 519 Irish and only 92 Italians. Pauperism has a close relation with suicide, and of such deaths during the year the record counts 89 Irish and 23 Italians. The Irish have always supplied much more than their share of our paupers; but Irish brawn has contributed its full part to the prosperity of the country; and the comparatively large proportion of Irish inmates in all our penal institutions never justified the charge that the Irish are a criminal race, or Irish immigration undesirable. That was the final answer to the Know-Nothing argument!

Nor do court records show that Italians are the professional criminals they are said to be. Take the city magistrates' reports for the year ending December 31, 1901 — the latest date for which all the necessary data are available. At that time, using Dr. Laidlaw's estimate of additions by immigration to the population of the city to May 1, 1902, there were about 282,804 Irish and 200,549 Italians in Greater New York. If the proportion of the sexes remained unchanged from the taking of the census, there were 117,599 Irish males, and 114,673 Italian. This near equality of the criminal sex in the two nationalities makes possible a rough measure of Italian criminality.

In these columns of crime the most striking fact in the Italian's favor is a remarkable showing of sobriety. During the year, 7281 Irish were hauled into court accused of "intoxication" and "intoxication and disorderly conduct," while the Italians arrested on the same charge numbered only 513. With the exception of the Russian Jews, Italians are by far the most sober of all nationalities in New York, including the native born. Next, noticing only offenses committed with particular frequency, the Italians again appear at a pronounced advantage in: Assaults (misdemeanor), 284 Irish and 139 Italians; disorderly conduct, 3278 Irish and 1454 Italians; larceny (misdemeanor), 297 Irish and 174 Italians; vagrancy, 1031 Irish and 80 Italians. Insanity is here listed with crime, and there are 146 Irish commitments to 35 Italian. Irish and Italians are nearly at an equality in: Burglaries, 63 Irish and 57 Italians; and larceny (felony), 122 Irish and 94 Italians. On the other hand, Italians show at the worst in: Violation of corporation ordinance (chiefly peddling without a license), 196 Irish and 1169 Italians; and assault (felony), 75 Irish and 155 Italians. In homicides, quite contrary to the popular impression, the Italians are only charged with the ratio exactly normal to their numbers after taking the average per 100,000 for the whole city, while the Irish are accused of nearly two and one half times their quota: Irish 50, Italians 14. The report for 1903, the last published, after important changes effected by almost two years of immigration, shows an unchanged proportional variation: Irish 59, Italians 21.

The one serious crime to which Italians are prone more than other men is an unpremeditated crime of violence. This is mostly charged, and probably with entire justice, upon the men of four provinces, and Girgenti in Sicily is particularly specified. It is generally the outcome of quarrels among themselves, prompted by jealousy and suspected treachery. The Sicilians' code of honor is an antiquated and repellent one, but even his vendetta is less ruthless than the Kentucky mountaineer's. It stops at the grave. Judged in the mass, Italians are peaceable, as they are law-abiding. The exceptions make up the national criminal record; and as there is a French or English type of criminal, so there is a Sicilian type, who has succeeded in impressing our imaginations with some fear and terror.


It is important that two or three other truths about the Italian should be known. Like all their immigrant predecessors, Italians profess no special cult of soap and water; and here, too, there are differences, for some Italians are cleaner than others. Still, cleanliness is the rule and dirt the exception. The inspectors of the New York Tenement-House Department report that the tenements in the Italian quarters are in the best condition of all, and that they are infinitely cleaner than those in the Jewish and Irish districts. And the same with overcrowding. One of New York's typical "Little Italies" is inhabited by 1075 Italian families — so poor that only twenty-six of them pay over $19 monthly rent — and yet, when a complete canvass was made by the Federation of Churches, the average allotment of space was found to be one room to 1.7 persons. Like the Germans and Irish of the fifties, our Italians are largely poor, ignorant peasants when they come to us. But by the enforcement of the recent law our present immigrants are greatly superior physically and morally to those of the Know-Nothing days. The difference in criminal records is partly the proof of a better law. The worst of the newer tenements are better than the best of the old kind, and every surrounding is more sanitary. Better schools, recreation piers, public baths, playgrounds, and new parks are helping the Italian children of the tenements to develop into healthy and useful men and women.


They are honest, saving, industrious, temperate, and so exceptionally moral that two years ago the Secretary of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco was able to boast that the police of that city had never yet found an Italian woman of evil character. Even in New York (and I have my information from Mr. Forbes, of the Charity Organization Society) Italian prostitution was entirely unknown until by our corrupt police it was colonized as scientifically as a culture of bacteria made by a biologist; and to-day it is less proportionately than that of any other nationality within the limits of the greater city. More than 750,000 Italian immigrants have come to us within the last four years, and during that entire time only a single woman of them has been ordered deported charged with prostitution.


From the very bottom, Italians are climbing up the same rungs of the same social and industrial ladder [as the Irish and the Germans]. But it is still a secret that they are being gradually turned into Americans; and, for all its evils, the city colony is a wonderful help in the process. The close contact of American surroundings eventually destroys the foreign life and spirit, and of this New York gives proof. Only two poor fragments remain of the numerous important German and Irish colonies that were flourishing in the city twenty-five or thirty years ago; while the ancient settled Pennsylvania Dutch, thanks to their isolation, are not yet fully merged in the great citizen body. And so, in the city colony, Italians are becoming Americans. Legions of them, who never intended to remain here when they landed, have cast in their lot definitely with us; and those who have already become Americanized, but no others, are beginning to intermarry with our people. The mass of them are still laborers, toiling like ants in adding to the wealth of the country; but thousands are succeeding in many branches of trade and manufacture. The names of Italians engaged in business in the United States fill a special directory of over five hundred pages. Their real estate holdings and bank deposits aggregate enormous totals. Their second generation is already crowding into all the professions, and we have Italian teachers, dentists, architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and judges.

John Foster Carr. "The Coming of the Italian". The Outlook, February 24, 1906. (Quoted from: Immigration and Americanization: selected readings. Compiled and edited by Philip Davis and Bertha Schwartz. New York: Ginn and Company, 1920.)

Cranial Nonmetric Traits

November 12, 2010

The frequency distribution of nonmetric cranial traits reflects inter-group genetic differences, producing clusters that correspond to human races. In this global study, Italians (#50) are located in the center of a Caucasoid cluster, surrounded by Slavs from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia (#49), Finns (#51), Swedes and Norwegians (#52), Germans (#53), French (#54), Russians (#47), Ancient and Modern Greeks (#48), and Ancient Egyptians and Nubians (#59-62), as well as four United Kingdom samples from Scotland and England: Late Medieval, Late Roman, Mid-Victorian, and Pre-17th century (#55-58).

Detail: Caucasoids

Here are the full scatter plots of all populations using the first through fourth principal coordinates, along with a description from the study. I've color-coded the three major groups: Europeans (red), East Asians (blue), and Sub-Saharan Africans (green).

In the present study, the frequency distributions of 20 discrete cranial traits in 70 major human populations from around the world were analyzed. The principal-coordinate and neighbor-joining analyses of Smith's mean measure of divergence (MMD), based on trait frequencies, indicate that 1) the clustering pattern is similar to those based on classic genetic markers, DNA polymorphisms, and craniometrics.... Roughly three major constellations are evident. The Subsaharan African, Southeast Asian, and Oceanian samples form a cluster in one quadrant of Figure 2a. However, the Subsaharan African samples form a distinct grouping, well removed from the Southeast Asian and Oceanian samples on the third and fourth principal coordinates. In Figures 1 and 2, the Subsaharan African samples show significant separation from other regions, as well as diversity among themselves. The East/Northeast Asian and European samples form two additional discernable clusters. The New World and Arctic samples are peripheral subgroups in the large East/Northeast Asian cluster, and the two Ainu samples are outliers to other East Asians. The Central Asian samples are located between the Eastern Asian and European clusters. In the bottom half of Figure 2a, the South Asian samples are nearest to the center of all groups, the North African samples are a bit further removed, and the European samples are more separated, having the lowest scores on principal axis 2.

Hanihara et al. "Characterization of Biological Diversity Through Analysis of Discrete Cranial Traits". Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003.

Italians Are Genetically Distinct from Jews

October 30, 2010

It's often claimed that Italians, especially Southern Italians, cluster with Ashkenazi Jews. At the very least, that's backwards because it's Jews who have mixed origins, pulling them away from West Asia and toward Europe. That, and the correspondence between geographic and genetic distance, puts them closest to Southern Europeans. However, when enough markers are used (or the right kinds of markers) the two groups can be distinguished, just as each can be distinguished from others. Indeed, Ashkenazi Jews form their own unique cluster, while Italians belong to a broader Southern European cluster, expectedly plotting between Spaniards and Greeks.

Tian et al. (2009) sampled Lombards (ITN_N), Tuscans (TUSC), Sardinians (SARD) and Southern Italian-Americans from New York (ITN), as well as Ashkenazi Jews (AJA), and genotyped them for 300,000 autosomal SNPs:

The current study extends the analysis of European population genetic structure to include additional southern European groups and Arab populations. Even within Italy, the relative position of northern Italians compared with subjects from Tuscany is consistent with the general geographic correspondence of PCA results. Interestingly, the majority of Italian Americans (NYCP four grandparents defined) appear to derive from southern Italy and overlap with subjects of Greek heritage. Both of these observations are consistent with previous historical information.

Possible exceptions to this observation of geographic correspondence include the Ashkenazi Jewish population. While the Ashkenazi are clearly of southern origin based on both PCA and STRUCTURE studies, in our analyses of diverse European populations, this group appears to have a unique genotypic pattern that may not reflect geographic origins.

Price et al. (2008) sampled Southern Italians and Sicilians, and isolated the genetic markers that are most accurate for distinguishing between European groups, achieving results comparable to those from genome-wide analyses:

Important work has already shown that northwest and southeast Europeans can be distinguished using as few as 800-1,200 ancestry-informative markers mined from datasets of 6,000-10,000 markers. Here we mine much larger datasets (more markers and more samples) to identify a panel of 300 highly ancestry-informative markers which accurately distinguish not just northwest and southeast European, but also Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. [...] Our results are consistent with a previous study in which Ashkenazi Jewish and southeast European samples occupied similar positions on the northwest-southeast axis, although there was insufficient data in that study to separate these two populations.

Tian et al. (2008) provide an additional example of the same clustering pattern, using samples and markers similar to those in their other study:

European population genetic substructure was examined in a diverse set of >1,000 individuals of European descent, each genotyped with >300 K SNPs. Both STRUCTURE and principal component analyses (PCA) showed the largest division/principal component (PC) differentiated northern from southern European ancestry. A second PC further separated Italian, Spanish, and Greek individuals from those of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry as well as distinguishing among northern European populations. In separate analyses of northern European participants other substructure relationships were discerned showing a west to east gradient.

Italian-American Billionaires

October 23, 2010

As far as I can tell, 16 out of the 400 billionaires on Forbes' 2010 list of the richest people in America are Italian or have Italian ancestry. That puts them at 4% of the total, which is not too far from the 5.6% of Americans who report Italian ancestry. Here they are in order of wealth (click each name for a bio):

Rank Photo Name Net
Age Home Source of
#55 Ray Dalio $5 B 61 CT hedge funds
#66 John Paul DeJoria $4.2 B 66 TX hair products,
#95 John Sobrato & family $3.3 B 71 CA real estate
#124 Philip Falcone $2.8 B 47 NY hedge funds
#136 James Leprino $2.6 B 72 CO cheese
#164 A. Jerrold Perenchio $2.2 B 79 CA Univision
#182 Daniel D'Aniello $2 B 64 VA leveraged
#221 Fred DeLuca $1.8 B 63 FL Subway
#252 Leandro Rizzuto $1.6 B 72 WY Conair
#269 Edward DeBartolo $1.5 B 63 FL shopping
#308 Stephen Bisciotti $1.3 B 50 MD outsourcing,
#332 Joseph Mansueto $1.2 B 54 IL Morningstar
#332 Tom Golisano $1.2 B 68 FL Paychex
#365 Frank Fertitta $1.1 B 48 NV casinos, UFC
#365 Kenneth Langone $1.1 B 75 NY investments
#385 Lorenzo Fertitta $1 B 41 NV casinos, UFC

Richard Lynn Further Refuted

October 18, 2010

I had recently criticized Richard Lynn's flawed study on IQ in Northern and Southern Italy, and now Italian researchers Cornoldi et al. (2010) have published their own critique, which confirms what I said and predicted:

Working with data from the PISA study (OECD, 2007), Lynn (2010) has argued that individuals from South Italy average an IQ approximately 10 points lower than individuals from North Italy, and has gone on to put forward a series of conclusions on the relationship between average IQ, latitude, average stature, income, etc. The present paper criticizes these conclusions and the robustness of the data from which Lynn (2010) derived the IQ scores. In particular, on the basis of recent Italian studies and our databank, we observe that : 1) school measures should be used for deriving IQ indices only in cases where contextual variables are not crucial: there is evidence that partialling out the role of contextual variables may lead to reduction or even elimination of PISA differences; in particular, schooling effects are shown through different sets of data obtained for younger grades; 2) in the case of South Italy, the PISA data may have exaggerated the differences, since data obtained with tasks similar to the PISA tasks (MT-advanced) show smaller differences; 3) national official data, obtained by INVALSI (2009a) on large numbers of primary school children, support these conclusions, suggesting that schooling may have a critical role; 4) purer measures of IQ obtained during the standardisation of Raven's Progressive Coloured Matrices also show no significant differences in IQ between children from South and North Italy.

Lynn's feeble reply, where he's basically forced to admit he's wrong:

Beraldo (this issue) and Cornoldi, Belacchi, Giofre, Martini, and Tressoldi (2010) (CBGMT) have eight criticisms of my paper (Lynn, 2010) claiming that the large north-south differences in per capita income in Italy are attributable to differences in the average levels of intelligence in the populations. CBGMT give results for seven data sets for IQs in the north and south of Italy. All of these show that IQs are higher in the north than in the south, although the differences are not as great as those I calculated. Other criticisms to the effect that the PISA tests are not measures of intelligence are refuted. The results of two further studies are given that confirm that IQs in the north of Italy are approximately 10 IQ points higher than in the south.

The other critique mentioned there is Sergio Beraldo (2010), which focuses mostly on Lynn's claims about economic differences.

Italian Beauty: Giovanna Mezzogiorno

October 15, 2010

What better way to kick off this series than with one of the most popular actresses in Italy right now, born in the capital city of Rome to a father from the South (near Naples) and a mother with roots in the North (Veneto).

"Guido" Isn't an Ethnic Slur

October 12, 2010

Usually, "anti-defamation" stuff comes from whiny democrats, so I was surprised to find this article by Fox News republican Tommy De Seno. Apparently, he was at the boardwalk in New Jersey one day and saw an amusement stand with a game called "Shoot the Guido". It offended him, even more so when he discovered that the guy running it was Italian too. He argues that there's a double standard because there could never be a game called "Shoot the nigger", "Shoot the spic", "Shoot the chink" or "Shoot the kike".

But his entire premise is false. "Guido" isn't an ethnic slur like those others. First of all, it originated among Italians, not as a derogatory name used against them by outsiders; and secondly, it describes a youth subculture within an ethnic group, not the ethnic group itself, and different ethnicities can and do join in. So whereas a game like "Shoot the chink" would equate to "Shoot the Chinese person", "Shoot the Guido" does not equate to "Shoot the Italian person"; it's more like "Shoot the chav" or "Shoot the cholo" (all really fun-sounding games). An equivalent to De Seno's examples would be "Shoot the wop", and no amusement stand would ever have a game like that.

He then takes aim at MTV for enforcing Guido stereotypes, and manages to work in Mafia stereotypes too (blaming HBO for The Sopranos, a critical darling created by an Italian-American). But his anger is misdirected. He should be targeting the source: the Guido subculture itself. Cancelling shows like Jersey Shore won't make Guidos go away. Shooting them would, and pretending to shoot them might be the next best thing, because it conveys very strong disdain. The fact that a game like "Shoot the Guido" exists, and that it's run by a NJ Italian, is encouraging, not offensive.

Time Magazine recently ran an article about the whole Guido controversy, and it contains some informative history that refutes De Seno's nonsense:

There's no date stamp on when the term Guido came into play, but [sociology professor at City University of New York/Queensborough Donald] Tricarico theorizes that it very well may have originated as an insult from within the Italian-American community, conferring inferior status on immigrants who are "just off the boat." It clearly references non-assimilation in its use of a name more at home in the old homeland. In fact, in different locales, the same slur isn't Guido: in Chicago the term is "Mario" and in Toronto it goes by "Gino." Guido is far less offensive, among Italian-Americans, than another G word, which is also used in the names of countries in equatorial west Africa.


"It's a way to be a part of popular culture for kids who aren't invited to the party," Tricarico says. "It is defiant. It's identity politics," he explains. "It's a cultural movement, but it's about consumption, not ethnicity."

"'Guido' has become the name of a lifestyle,"
says Fred Gardaphè, Distinguished Professor of Italian American Studies at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College. "Guido itself is not a derogatory name." He explains its origins from a stereotype: "It's a real handsome, uneducated kid who gets by on his charm and his looks and doesn't really have much going for him." But, says Gardaphè, the wave of negative response to Jersey Shore come from what he calls "irony deficiency" in the Italian-American community. These peacocking kids, he says, come from a long history of exaggerated characterizations in Italian culture.

"The major key to Italian-American culture is something called 'bella figura,'" says Gardaphè. "It basically means, to put on a show so people don't know the real you. If you're poor, you make them think you're rich. If you're rich, you make them think you're poor." For an immigrant people emerging from a history of foreign conquerors and a lack of a nation-state (till 1870), says Gardaphè, "It's all about protection."

Caryn Brooks. "Italian Americans and the 'G' Word: Embrace or Reject?". Time Magazine, December 2009.

Sicilians Fight Back Against the Mafia

October 4, 2010

In Sicily, the birthplace of the modern Mafia, the mob has served as the real power center for decades, infiltrating all aspects of life and government. But Frontline/World reporter Carola Mamberto finds that one town is fighting back. "Taking on the Mafia" tells the story of how a Palermo restaurant owner and a movement of young people help to score a rare victory in the country's battle against Mafia dominance.

"Italy: Taking on the Mafia". Frontline/World, Jan. 27, 2009.

No Such Thing as "Mediterranean Cuisine"

September 30, 2010

What nutritionists call the "Mediterranean diet" just consists of healthy ingredients commonly found around the Mediterranean, but doesn't represent a single, unified regional cuisine because the Mediterranean isn't a single, unified region. And its many divisions are reflected in its culinary diversity.

To speak of 'Mediterranean cuisine' — to use such a catch-all classification for the wines and herbs of southern France, the intricate and bold spices of Morocco, the octopus salad of Greece, the cool yoghurt soup of Syria and the hearty fish stew of Italy's Liguria — is a fool's errand, writes Corinne Vella.

The geographical area that comprises the Mediterranean consists of three continents and more than fifteen countries. It is a region so divided socially, politically, religiously and economically, that the notion of a single cuisine being the unifying factor is a heart-warming but wildly inaccurate idea. There is no such thing as Mediterranean cuisine. It is more accurate to speak of several types of cuisine within this region.

Commonalities do exist among the richly diverse range of culinary traditions found around the Mediterranean. The cuisines of the region can be roughly clustered into three groups: North African, eastern Mediterranean and southern European. But though there are some similarities within and between each group, they remain distinct, born as they are of differing cultures.

The misconception of a common culinary identity is possibly rooted in the idea that Mediterranean countries do share some things: their climate and terrain and much of their history of imperial colonisation and trade relations. Large swathes of the area have been variously influenced by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks and the Venetians, all of whom have left traces of their presence and the lingering impression of a shared regional identity.

Marry that lingering impression to the contemporary concept of a "Mediterranean diet" and you have the basis for a myth, the idea of the existence of a cuisine that persists in the face of evidence to the contrary.

A food could be considered normal in one culture but have shock value in another. No eyebrows are raised when wine is drunk with meals anywhere from Spain to Greece, for example, but no self-respecting Muslim community, of which there are several in the Mediterranean, would count wine as part of its cuisine. Tuscany gorges on pork products, something not done anywhere from Morocco to Turkey. Lamb, chicken and fish are typical there. Prosciutto crudo is not.

Many traditional dishes are centred on religious holidays and the practices associated with them. Certain foods, such as meat and dairy products, are prohibited at significant points in the religious calendars, giving the various cuisines at least some of their individual characteristics. Though that much seems obvious, the belief remains that there is such a thing as a Mediterranean cuisine that could be alternatively referred to as "the Mediterranean diet".

"Mediterranean diet" is not the gastronomic flipside of "Mediterranean cuisine", nor is the difference between the two terms merely semantic. The "Mediterranean diet" is a model of healthy eating, rather than a truly localised diet born of tradition. Its supposed widespread presence in Mediterranean countries is itself becoming a myth of sorts, given the inroads made by global fast food brands. Even if it were not, the "Mediterranean diet" could not be related to any cuisine in the anthropological sense.

A cuisine is not invented overnight, nor is it established in the space of a couple of generations, as the "Mediterranean diet" has been. Rather, it is the distillation of generations-worth of experience of making the most of, or making do with, whatever nature provided. Many traditional dishes from mountain villages, in Crete for example, are based on survival tactics and the art of foraging for food in the wild. The predominance of lamb, goat meat and poultry in Arab cuisine has more to do with the portability of the animals in question, and their ability to survive on meagre rations — an important factor among nomadic tribes — than it has to do with partiality of taste.

Seen altogether, Mediterranean cuisines are a colourful mix, vaguely connected when taken at face value, but, when viewed historically, as fractured and deeply divided as the region itself. It is in that sense alone, perhaps, that there can be said to be the merest shadow of a unified cuisine that is truly Mediterranean.

Corinne Vella. "The Myth of the Mediterranean Diet". Taste, November 2004.

Northern and Southern Facial Composites

September 25, 2010

Here's a comparison of phenotypes from Northern and Southern Italy using large random samples of 2000-2006 Miss Italia beauty pageant contestants, and deputies from the 14th Legislature of the Italian Republic, which were averaged out to create composite faces. Note that I've left out the soccer player composites that were part of my original post because of the small sample sizes and other issues.

40 Models from
Veneto, Northern Italy
43 Models from
Sicily, Southern Italy

36 Deputies from
Veneto, Northern Italy
56 Deputies from
Sicily, Southern Italy

The composite Veneto model's hair is about half a shade lighter than the Sicilian model's, and the Sicilian deputy is a little older, grayer and balder than the Veneto deputy. But apart from that, the similarities are quite striking — even greater than those between other adjacent Caucasoid groups. That shouldn't really come as a surprise, but I'm sure it will to Nordicists and people raised on stereotypes.

Software: Sqirlz Morph

Legacy of the Romans in Britain

September 23, 2010

This is an excerpt from one of the articles contributed by Roman military historian Mike Ibeji to an online BBC series on ancient history.

Striving to be Roman

The Roman invasion of Britain was arguably the most significant event ever to happen to the British Isles. It affected our language, our culture, our geography, our architecture and even the way we think. Our island has a Roman name, its capital is a Roman city and for centuries (even after the Norman Conquest) the language of our religion and administration was a Roman one.

For 400 years, Rome brought a unity and order to Britain that it had never had before. Prior to the Romans, Britain was a disparate set of peoples with no sense of national identity beyond that of their local tribe. In the wake of the Roman occupation, every 'Briton' was aware of their 'Britishness'. This defined them as something different from those people who came after them, colouring their national mythology, so that the Welsh could see themselves as the true heirs of Britain, whilst the Scots and Irish were proud of the fact that they had never been conquered by Rome.

Yet perhaps Rome's most important legacy was not its roads, nor its agriculture, nor its cities, nor even its language, but the bald and simple fact that every generation of British inhabitant that followed them — be they Saxon, Norman, Renaissance English or Victorian — were striving to be Roman. Each was trying to regain the glory of that long-lost age when Britannia was part of a grand civilisation, which shaped the whole of Europe and was one unified island.

I am usually asked five questions whenever people talk to me about Roman Britain, and they find the answers profoundly surprising. People's view of Rome is of a grand, monolithic dictatorship which imposed its might upon an unwilling people, dictating how they lived, how they spoke and how they worshipped. They see the Romans as something akin to the Nazis (which is hardly surprising since the fascists tried to model themselves on Rome). The truth about Roman Britain is much more subtle and surprising, and serves to show why on the one hand their legacy has endured so long, and on the other, why their culture vanished so quickly once they departed from these shores.

Dr Mike Ibeji. "An Overview of Roman Britain". BBC History: Romans, 2001-2009.

Dante Alighieri Facial Reconstruction

September 21, 2010

This paper describes the multi-disciplinary approach to reconstruct the face of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). Since Dante's sepulchre will be opened in 2021, the reconstructive process is based on morphological and metric data collected on the poet's cranium during the formal identification of his remains in 1921 by the anthropologist Fabio Frassetto, as well as on the resulting plaster model. Starting from this plaster model and a morphologically compatible reference mandible, since the original mandible was never found, a 3D digital model of the complete skull was obtained by reverse engineering and virtual modelling techniques. The most important aspect in this work was the method of virtual modelling proposed for the ex novo generation of the mandible. The physical model of the skull (cranium + mandible) was then produced by means of a rapid prototyping system. This model was finally used to recreate Dante's face via traditional facial reconstruction techniques currently used in forensic anthropology.

Benazzi et al. "The face of the poet Dante Alighieri reconstructed by virtual modelling and forensic anthropology techniques". J Archaeol Sci, 2009.

Italian-Argentineans Are Mostly Southern

September 19, 2010

The study analyzes Italian emigration to Argentina from Sicily and Calabria between 1880-1930, compared with out-migration flows from Piedmont. The concepts of cultural patrimony and of migratory strategy are used to measure the different potentials and job opportunities in the Argentinean labor market as well as in the Italian context for those returning home. Considering the high proportion of returnees, a positive or negative correlation between region of origin and of destination can be proposed. Southern Italians indicate a more permanent settlement. The authors conclude that the Argentinean society in its Italian component is the result of Southern rather than Northern influences.

Cacopardo and Moreno. "Migration from Southern Italy to Argentina: Calabrians and Sicilians (1880-1930)". Studi Emigr, 1990.

Here are some photos of the Calabrian community in Argentina (click to enlarge):

Source: Círculo Calabrés de La Plata