Mycenaeans and Italians

January 15, 2018

We don't have Ancient Roman DNA yet, but now we have the next closest thing: Ancient Mycenaean Greek DNA. This new study shows that Mycenaeans, like their Peloponnesean descendants, are genetically similar to modern Italians (and other Southern Europeans) because both are similar mixes of Neolithic farmers and Indo-Europeans, and also because of Ancient Greek settlements in Southern Italy.

We estimated the fixation index, FST, of Bronze Age populations with present-day West Eurasians, finding that Mycenaeans were least differentiated from populations from Greece, Cyprus, Albania, and Italy (Fig. 2), part of a general pattern in which Bronze Age populations broadly resembled present-day inhabitants from the same region (Extended Data Fig. 7). [...] Other proposed migrations, such as settlement by Egyptian or Phoenician colonists, are not discernible in our data, as there is no measurable Levantine or African influence in the Minoans and Mycenaeans, thus rejecting the hypothesis that the cultures of the Aegean were seeded by migrants from the old civilizations of these regions.


The Mycenaeans settled all of mainland Greece up to Thessaly, and throughout the Aegean islands. There is evidence of extensive Mycenaean acculturation in Western Anatolia, Italy and Cyprus and trading relations with Egypt and the Near East. The Mycenaeans were literate and used for accounting purposes a syllabic script, Linear B, written in an early form of the Greek. They introduced this script into Crete after they occupied the island.

Lazaridis et al. "Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans". Nature, 2017.

Related: Ancient Roman DNA, Ancient-to-Modern Genetic Distances