The Project

General Information

In order to add new data to this ancient problem, a team of archaeologists, geneticists, and historians under the directon of Professor Patrick Geary of the Institute for Advanced Study are undertaking deep genetic analysis of some 1400 individuals found in cemeteries in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Italy in the sixth century. These regions correspond roughly to the areas at times ruled, according to written sources, by the Langobardi or Lombards, although these regions were inhabited by a heterogeneous mix of Roman provincials and members of various military and ethnic communities and it is impossible to identify the ethnicity of individual graves or indeed whole cemeteries as Lombard, a term which may have been a political rather than an ethnic or cultural designation. Thus rather than attempting to determine identities of any of the individuals we are studying, we are examining the biological kinship structures of these cemeteries, comparing genetic distance between neighboring cemeteries that evidence different material cultures, and between cemeteries without and within the Empire that show similar material culture. Using population genetic modeling we hope to estimate the size, distinctiveness, and cohesion of the various communities in the region and to gain a clearer understanding of population movements and rates of assimilation between the Roman world and the Barbarian worlds during this period.