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Keywords:

  • Balkan Peninsula;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Y chromosome;
  • genetic variation;
  • population genetics

Summary

The Balkan Peninsula is a complex cultural mosaic comprising populations speaking languages from several branches of the Indo-European family and Altaic, as well as culturally-defined minorities such as the Aromuns who speak a Romance language. The current cultural and linguistic landscape is a palimpsest in which different peoples have contributed their cultures in a historical succession. We have sought to find any evidence of genetic stratification related to those cultural layers by typing both mtDNA and Y chromosomes, in Albanians, Romanians, Macedonians, Greeks, and five Aromun populations. We have paid special attention to the Aromuns, and sought to test genetically various hypotheses on their origins.

MtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroup frequencies in the Balkans were found to be similar to those elsewhere in Europe. MtDNA sequences and Y-chromosome STR haplotypes revealed decreased variation in some Aromun populations. Variation within Aromun populations was the primary source of genetic differentiation. Y-chromosome haplotypes tended to be shared across Aromuns, but not across non-Aromun populations. These results point to a possible common origin of the Aromuns, with drift acting to differentiate the separate Aromun communities. The homogeneity of Balkan populations prevented testing for the origin of the Aromuns, although a significant Roman contribution can be ruled out.