DNA to rediscover a forgotten immigration

The project “Le Vie Aleramiche, Normanno-Sveve”, with the support of the Euro-Mediterranean Federation, after having deepened the linguistic, toponymic and cultural aspects, will make use of the important demo-genetic research, already expressed in a pioneering form in 2016, which has the declared purpose of uncovering traces, more less hidden, of an almost forgotten migration, which started, starting from the 11th century AD, from districts not better circumscribed in northern Italy towards what will later be understood as “Lombard of Sicily”.

This is a survey that involves, on different but strictly interdependent fronts, the three universities of Palermo, Messina, and Bologna, with the coordination of Prof. Luca Sineo, the Professor of Anthropology at the University of Palermo and current President of the ‘AAI (Italian Anthropological Association), and the action on the field by dr. Marco Nania, responsible for the sampling phase. This research, which fascinates the communities involved so much, acts by a comparative analysis of specific DNA segments deriving from biological samples taken from a group of selected subjects from the population currently residing in the Sicilian localities of interest, so qualified as possible receptacles of traces, even significant ones, of the passage and rooting of the “Lombard” colonizers.

With the method of “active” sampling, we will deliberately and hopefully proceed towards a close collaboration and widespread participation of local communities. They will feel as promoters of the survey themselves and, even more, creators of the re-determination, on a genetic basis, of their own history. A fundamental aspect of the pre-sample anthropological analysis is then based on the onomastic study of surnames, first names and nicknames, which say so much about culture and family and social relationships within a given community. The identification of endemic surnames and others of the suspicious and ancient high-Italic matrix, in combination with the reconstruction, up to the third parental generation (that of the great-grandparents), of genealogies purely embodied in the socio-demographic context of reference, will be the guides discriminating factors that will lead to establishing the perimeter within which to include the subjects of greatest interest.

It will be a question of demonstrating, in a definitive way, an indisputable ancestral link between the people of some strips of Sicily, where the progeny of Nordic migrants would be stationed, and the descendants of the sedentary stocks of the Ligurian, Piedmonts, and more generally “Lombard” ancestors. This should consolidate, with real scientific data, the narrative of that “reverse immigration”, now almost forgotten, which saw families and perhaps entire communities of Northern Italy follow the Aleramici, linked to the Norman-Swabian dynasty, in their transfer to the South and, in particular, towards Sicily.

An aspect of the research that before the pandemic had already seen the interest of the University of Bologna and of the Anthropologist Prof. Davide Pettener, interviewed by Fabrizio Di Salvo.

Sampling will take place, in stages and in successive periods, in the localities of San Fratello, Aidone, Piazza Armerina, Corleone, and Fondachelli Fantina. Thanks to the intermediation of Calogero Ridulfo, Filadelfio Crivillaro, Lavinia Garsia, Marco Incalcaterra, Franca Ciantia, Serena Raffiotta, Rosa Maria Restivo and Tiziana Laversa and coordinated by Anna Maria Di Rosa Placa, and Fabrizio Di Salvo of the Euro-Mediterranean Federation on the ancient Medieval Migrations, following the instructions already communicated by the experts in a videoconference.

In the case of Fondachelli-Fantina, however, it was the entire municipal administration, led by the mayor Dr. Marco Pettinato, to have raised awareness and to have promoted and supported, thanks also to the active collaboration of the councillor Gioconda Grasso and the cultural center “Le Miniere”, all the phases that will lead to the imminent sampling.

This is an opportunity to break down, through the science and study of DNA, prejudices and parochialisms that are firmly rooted and that do not allow us to look, with a broad breath, at the numerous pages of the history of mankind that speak of peoples in constant migration and relocation.