Genetic evidence of ancient migrations



Y chromosome genetic studies of current populations provide insights into ancient migrations. A strong Phokaian presence in the region of present-day Marseille sheds light on the nature of Greek migration to this area in the sixth century BCE.

Roy King, Julie DiCristofaro, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Anastasia Kouvatsi, Walter Scheidel, Natalie Myers, Alice Lin, Alexandre Eissautier, Michael Mitchell, Didier Binder, Ornella Semino, Andrea Novelletto, Peter Underhill, and Jacques Chiaroni, “The Coming of the Greeks to Provence and Corsica: Y Chromosome Models of Archaic Greek Colonization of the Western Mediterranean,” BMC Evolutionary Biology 11 (2011).


Textual evidence from pre-modern societies supports the prediction that status differences among men translate to variance in reproductive success. In recent years, analysis of genetic data has opened up new ways of studying this relationship. By investigating cases that range over several millennia, these analyses repeatedly document the replacement of local men by newcomers and reveal instances of exceptional reproductive success of specific male lineages. These findings suggest that violent population transfers and conquests could generate considerable reproductive advantages for male dominants. At the same time, this does not always seem to have been the case. Moreover, it is difficult to link such outcomes to particular historical characters or events, or to identify status-biased reproductive inequalities within dominant groups. The proximate factors that mediated implied imbalances in reproductive success often remain unclear. A better understanding of the complex interplay between social power and genetic fitness will only arise from sustained transdisciplinary engagement.

Walter Scheidel, “Fitness and power: the contribution of genetics to the history of differential reproduction,” Evolutionary Psychology December 17, 2021.