I feel a bit awkward asking this question, as I know this can be a touchy subject (especially with senior members of my family), but I have always wondered why this was. I have seen some people say it was because of the Moorish invasion of Sicily and some parts of Southern Italy, but I find this very hard to believe as the Moors were not in Italy for a large amount of time. I did however notice from pictures my darkest ancestors were from Calabria, which is very close to Sicily. My ancestors from Campania were a tad lighter. I would love to know the real reason for this, and I felt this was the best place to look.
I am sure that the Arab genetic influence has it's hand in the darker skinned Southern Italian population, as does The Germanic influence in the Northern Part of Italy. However these variations in color have more to do with where these original people lived in terms of climate. Essentially.. Sicilians would be (primarily) darker skinned than those from lets say Genoa, no matter who invaded the population.
Skin color, for example, is determined largely by the amount of melanin, a dark pigment, in the outer layer of the skin. (Carotene imparts a yellow tint.) In sunny climates close to the Equator, natural selection has favored dark, melanin-rich skin, which protects its owner by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays before they penetrate to lower layers. But some ultraviolet light must penetrate the skin so that the body can produce Vitamin D. Thus, at higher latitudes, where sunlight is less intense, pale skin with little melanin is the norm.
I'm sure you can tell the latter, Lucy (from Calabria), is darker, while Joe (from Campania) is still fairly dark. Would you say she is darker because Calabria is closer to Sicily (the main point of the Moorish invasion) and probably had a higher Arab population? Or would you say her skin looks like it just adjusted to the climate? I would think his skin looks like it would after adjusting to the warm climate, and she is a tad darker but, I don't know enough about this kind of thing to say.
Many cultures and civilization have existed there since prehistoric times. Culturally and linguistically the origins of Italian history can be traced back to the 9th century B.C. when earliest accounts date the presence of Italic tribes in modern central Italy.
Hopefully the reading will succinctly provide you with the mosaic to understand the differences between the swarthy appearance of southern Italians as opposed to the lighter skinned italians of Northern Italy.
I hope this succinct background will enlarge your understanding and answer your question within the framework of a total picture. =Peter=
Squigy wrote:The climate is what I always dismissed the reason for their darker skin as, but I always wondered if there was more to it.
No matter what group of people settled southern Italy.. eventually over thousands of years, the population's skin would become darker than those in the north who are further from the equator. In recent history you might see a darker population settle in an area of typically whiter skin and their genetic influence would be visible for a long time, but eventually it would lighten as "mother nature" naturally adapts the population genetics to benefit from the climate in which they live.
Thanks guys, it all makes sense. Would you say there are areas in Northern Italy where people with light skin were would have daker skin if not for the Germanic influence? Also, theoretically, do you think some areas that have light skinned people now, may have dark skinned people thousands of years from now? Or would it not be close enough to the equator?
Light skinned people who migrate to sunnier and warmer climes would initially retain their light colored skin coloring and their progeny would also retain similar light coloring. Over time, those light skin people who were able to survive the ravages of sun borne illnesses would be in a positon to reproduce more than light skinned people who were vulnerable to excess sun and heat and were less able to reproduce progency with the same frequency. Over time, those whose pigmentation was either slightly darker or able to absorb the sunlight better reproduced at an increasing rate while those light skinned people diminished in numbers due to their inability to keep up the reproduction rate.
People do not become uniformly dark or white because they all happen to live in the same clime and place but their are shades of light skin and shades of dark skin. I am not aware of the time period involved. it could be an era or epoch of time or within unknown thousands of years.
I do know that the original inhabitants of Greece were Blond blued eyed Hellenes who came down the Rhine and settled in Greece presumably from Scandinavia but whether they evolved into swarthy darker skinned people on their own or were overwhelmed by invaders from the East and Africa is unknown. =-Peter=
PeterTimber wrote:Dear Squigy what are your research objectives? =Peter=
I hope to learn more about Italy's history and culture 500+ years ago. The Moorish invasion is a point of interest. I have only recently started researching my Italians side. My direct male ancestor came here from England in 1682, so that kept me busy reading about early American culture for a while. I haven't had much of chance to study up on Italian history.
The moors in their sweep from the Middle East thru Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy brought the roots of the rennaisance with them. They established the first universities in Spain as well as Palermo and Naples bringing an end to the dark ages with their re- introduction of medicine, math and portable books (bound in leather and carried which hithertofore were giant tomes housed in Monasteries and Universities and whose access was severly limited and were weighty). With the introduction of "ITALICS" (italian development of writing in portable books in Northern Italy) learning was reinstituted)
On their sweep thru the Mediterranean the warring Caliphs had little time for civic administration and carried the Jews who lived in Alexandria( since the Jewish War in 70AD destroyed Jerusalem and fled Roman slavery) with them to become the adminstrators for the Moorish empire. This sets your stage. =Peter=
I have family from Calabria and they were all blue-eyed and fair and southern Italian. My nonna who came straight from there was fair and blue eyed along with her husband from the same place. All their children were blue eyed and lighter skinned. There is Greek influences also.
On the other hand my family from Avellino Province had dark skin with black hair and black eyes. Since Calabria is more south than Naples.... don't know but one thing for sure they worked out in the very hot sun all day long, that tends to darken the skin and turn it to leather.
Figlia Sicily has been so intermingled with so many races and nationalities that it seems as if the Lifeguard at the Genepool left his post! By that I mean Blondes and blue eyes could easily come to Sicily 2500 years ago from the original Helllenes of Greece who were from Scandinavia originally and still later were invaded by Vikings both from the North and from Byzantium when the Emperor hired Vikings who came down the Rhine to pillage and plunder inthe Black Sea area of Byzantium and made them his personal guard and no doubt found their way into Sicily via the famous General BELISARIUS who restored the western Roman empire for a long while to the Eastern Byzantium Roman Empire.