Statistical techniques for displaying the geographical distribution of many genes in few synthetic images have been used to represent the various patterns of gene frequencies in Europe and in the world (Menozzi et al. 1978; Piazza et al. 1981 a). It has also been shown that such synthetic displays are particularly useful in detecting clines of genetic differentiation associated with movements of populations like those accompanying the Neolithic expansion of farmers from the Near East or, in more recent times, the putative diffusion of Indo-European-speaking populations (Ammerman CAVALLI-Sforza, 1984; Gimbutas, 1973). In this paper we use the same combination of statistical and graphical techniques to study the genetic structure of Italy, a European country whose unity of people and cultures was quite a recent event. The possibility of studying genetic differentiation in a small geographical area is tested and trends of genetic differences are tentatively interpreted in terms of historic and linguistic knowledge. The few demographic pieces of information taken from historical sources and compared with linguistic records support the hypothesis that the genetic structure of Italy still reflects the ethnic stratification of pre-Roman times.
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