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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Human Genetic Diversity across Languages and Cultures

Human Genetic Diversity across Languages and Cultures

We investigate the dynamics of human migration and contact and how they impacted our genetic, linguistic and cultural diversity. We use population genetics methods to disentangle patterns of relatedness between human groups, and we integrate genetic results with qualitative and quantitative data from linguistics and evolutionary anthropology.
Our database GeLaTo (Genes and Languages Together) is a new resource developed to link genomic data to cultural and linguistic identifiers and promote multidisciplinary research.
We dedicate a specific focus to South America, a region of rich linguistic and cultural diversity. Here we analyze human trajectories over different ecogeographic domains and major language families, and we confront them with cultural changes (e.g. changes in mobility and subsistence).

Head of group: Dr. Chiara Barbieri

Research themes

  • Reconstructing the human past with a multidisciplinary approach
  • Matches and mismatches between global genetic and linguistic diversity
  • Migration routes and cultural diversity in South America
  • Demographic contacts behind the spread of the Quechua language family

List of important publications

  • Arango-Isaza E., Aninao MJ., Campbell R., Martínez FI., Shimizu KK., Barbieri C. (2023). Bridging the Gap: Returning Genetic Results to Indigenous Communities in Latin America. Frontiers in Genetics 14. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2023.1304974
  • Menéndez LP., Barbieri C., López Cruz IG., Schmelzle T., Breidenstein AM., Barquera R., Borzi G., Schuenemann VJ., Sanchez-Villagra MR. (2023). On Roth’s “human fossil” from Baradero, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina: morphological and genetic analysis. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology, 142(1):26-45. DOI: 10.1186/s13358-023-00293-3
  • Arango-Isaza E., Capodiferro MR., Aninao MJ., Babiker H., Aeschbacher S., Achilli A., Posth C., Campbell R., Martinez FI., Heggarty P., Sadowsky S., Shimizu KK., Barbieri C. (2023). The genetic history of the Southern Andes from present-day Mapuche ancestry. Current Biology, 33(13):2602-2615.e5. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.05.013
  • Barbieri C., Blasi DE., Arango-Isaza E., Sotiropoulos AG., Hammarström H., Wichmann S., Greenhill SJ., Gray RD., Forkel R., Bickel B., Shimizu KK. (2022). A global analysis of matches and mismatches between human genetic and linguistic histories. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119:47. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2122084119
  • Aguirre-Fernández G., Barbieri C., Graff A., Pérez de Arce J., Moreno H., Sánchez-Villagra MR. (2021). Cultural macroevolution of musical instruments in South America. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 8:208. DOI: 10.1057/s41599-021-00881-z
  • Urban M., Barbieri C. (2020). North and South in the ancient Central Andes: Contextualizing the archaeological record with evidence from linguistics and molecular anthropology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 60:101233. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2020.101233


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