Origin of the Albanians

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History of Albania

The origin of the Albanians has long been a matter of dispute among historians.

The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Very little evidence of pre-Christian Albanian culture survives, although Albanian mythology and folklore are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and almost all of their elements are pagan,[1] in particular showing Greek influence.[2]

The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European, first attested in the 15th century, and is considered to have evolved from one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity.[3]

Contemporary historians conclude that, like all Balkan peoples, the Albanians are not descendants of a single ancient population; apart from the main ancestor, prehistoric Balkan populations such as the Illyrians, Dacians or Thracians, there is an additional admixture from Slavic, Greek, Vlach, Romano-Italian, Celtic and Germanic elements.[4] Studies in genetic anthropology show that the Albanians share similar ancestry to many other Europeans, and especially other peoples of the Balkans.[5][6][7][8] The Albanians are also one of Europe's populations with the highest number of common ancestors within their own ethnic group even though they share ancestors with other ethnic groups.[9]

Place of origin[edit]

The Albanian language is attested in a written form beginning only in the 15th century AD, when the Albanian ethnos was already formed. In the absence of prior data on the language, scholars have used the Latin and Slav loans into Albanian for identifying its location of origin.[10]

The place where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain. Analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region, rather than in a plain or seacoast. While the words for plants and animals characteristic of mountainous regions are entirely original, the names for fish and for agricultural activities are generally assumed to have been borrowed from other languages. However, considering the presence of some preserved old terms related to the sea fauna, some have assumed that this vocabulary might have been lost in the course of time after the proto-Albanian tribes were pushed back into the inland during invasions.[11][12] The Slavic loans in Albanian suggest that contacts between the two populations took place when Albanians dwelt in forests 600–900 metres above sea level.[13] The overwhelming amount of mountaineering and shepherding vocabulary, coupled with the extensive influence of Latin makes it likely that the Albanians originated north of the Jireček Line, further north and inland than the current borders of Albania suggest. It has long been recognized that there are two treatments of Latin loans in Albanian, of Old Dalmatian type and Romanian type, but that would point out to two geographic layers, coastal Adriatic and inner Balkan region.[14] Some scholars believe that the Latin influence over Albanian is of Eastern Romance origin, rather than of Dalmatian origin, which would exclude Dalmatia as a place of origin.[15] Adding to this the several hundred words in Romanian that are cognate only with Albanian cognates (see Eastern Romance substratum), these scholars assume that Romanians and Albanians lived in close proximity at one time.[15] The area where this might have happened is the Morava Valley in eastern Serbia.[15]

Another argument in favor of a northern origin for the Albanian language is the relatively small number of words of Greek origin, mostly from Doric dialect,[16] even though Southern Illyria neighbored the Classical Greek civilization and there were a number of Greek colonies along the Illyrian coastline. However, in view of the amount of Albanian-Greek isoglosses, which the scholar Vladimir Orel considers surprisingly high (in comparison with the Indo-Albanian and Armeno-Albanian ones), the author concludes that this particular proximity could be the result of intense secondary contacts of two proto-dialects.[17]

Those scholars who maintain the Illyrian origin of Albanians maintain that the indigenous Illyrian tribes dwelling in South Illyria went up into the mountains when Slavs occupied the lowlands,[18][19] while another version of this hypothesis maintains that the Albanians are the descendants of Illyrian tribes located between Dalmatia and the Danube, who spilled south.[20]

The scholars who support a Dacian origin of Albanians maintain that between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD, Albanians moved southwards from the Moesian area,[21] while those scholars who maintain a Thracian origin hypothesize that the proto-Albanians are to be located in Thracian territory in the area between Niš, Skopje, Sofia and Albania[22] or from the Rhodope and Balkan Mountains, where they moved to Albania before the arrival of the Slavs.[23]

Primary sources[edit]

Location of the Albani at 150 AD in Roman Macedon

References to people of unknown ethnicity in antiquity and the Early Middle Ages[edit]

References to Albanians in the High Middle Ages[edit]

  • The Arbanasi people are recorded as being 'half-believers' (non-Eastern Orthodox Christians) and speaking their own language in a Bulgarian text found in a Serbian manuscript dating to 1628; the text was written by an anonymous author that according to Radoslav Grujić (1934) dated to the reign of Samuel of Bulgaria (997–1014), or possibly, according to R. Elsie, 1000–1018.[37]
  • In History written in 1079–1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrhachium. It is disputed, however, whether the "Albanoi" of the events of 1043 refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense or whether "Albanoi" is a reference to Normans from southern Italy under an archaic name (there was also a tribe of Italy by the name of Albani).[38] However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaliates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion in 1078, is undisputed.[39]
  • Some authors (like Alain Ducellier, 1968[40]) believe that Arvanoi are mentioned in Book IV of the Alexiad by Anna Comnena (c. 1148). Others believe that this is a wrong reading and interpretation of the Greek phrase εξ Αρβάνων (i.e. ‘from Arvana’) found in the original manuscript and in one edition (Bonn, 1839) of the Alexiad.[41]
  • The earliest Serbian source mentioning "Albania" (Ar'banas') is a charter by Stefan Nemanja, dated 1198, which lists the region of Pilot (Pulatum) among the parts Nemanja conquered from Albania (ѡд Арьбанась Пилоть, "de Albania Pulatum").[42]
  • In the 12th to 13th centuries, Byzantine writers used the name Arbanon (Medieval Greek: Ἄρβανον) for a principality in the region of Kruja.
  • The oldest reference to Albanians in Epirus is from a Venetian document dating to 1210, which states that “the continent facing the island of Corfu is inhabited by Albanians”.[43]
  • A Ragusan document dating to 1285 states: “I heard a voice crying in the mountains in the Albanian language” (Audivi unam vocem clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca).[44]



Albanian migrations in 1300–1350 AD

The Albanians call themselves (endonym) "Shqiptar". There are various theories of the origin of the word:

First attestation of the Albanian language[edit]

The earliest written specimens of Albanian are Formula e pagëzimit (1462) and Arnold Ritter von Harff's lexicon (1496). The first Albanian text written with Greek letters is a fragment of the Ungjilli i Pashkëve (Passover Gospel) from the 15 or 16th century. The first printed books in Albanian are Meshari (1555) and Luca Matranga's E mbsuame e krështerë (1592).

Paleo-Balkanic predecessors[edit]

While Albanian (shqip) ethnogenesis clearly postdates the Roman era,[54] an element of continuity from the pre-Roman provincial population is widely held to be plausible on linguistic and archaeological grounds.

The three chief candidates considered by historians are Illyrian, Dacian, or Thracian, but there were other non-Greek groups in the ancient Balkans, including Paionians (who lived north of Macedon) and Agrianians. The Illyrian language and the Thracian language are often considered to have been in different Indo-European branches.[55][verification needed][need quotation to verify] Not much is left of the old Illyrian, Dacian or Thracian languages, which makes it difficult to match Albanian with them.

There is debate on whether the Illyrian language was a centum or a satem language. It is also uncertain whether Illyrians spoke a homogeneous language or rather a collection of different but related languages that were wrongly considered the same language by ancient writers. The Venetic tribes, formerly considered Illyrian, are no longer considered categorised with Illyrians.[56][57] The same is sometimes said of the Thracian language. For example, based on the toponyms and other lexical items, Thracian and Dacian were probably different but related languages.

In the early 20th century, many scholars[who?] thought that Thracian and Illyrian were one language branch, but the lack of evidence has made most linguists skeptical and now reject the idea. They usually place them on different branches.

The debate is often politically charged, and to be conclusive ,more evidence is needed. Such evidence unfortunately may not be easily forthcoming because of a lack of sources. The area of what is now Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania was a melting pot of Thracian, Illyrian and Greek cultures in ancient times.[citation needed]

Illyrian origin[edit]

The theory that Albanians were related to the Illyrians was proposed for the first time by the Swedish[58] historian Johann Erich Thunmann in 1774.[59] The scholars who advocate an Illyrian origin are numerous.[60][61][62][63] There are two variants of the theory: one is that the Albanians are the descendants of indigenous Illyrian tribes dwelling in what is now Albania.[64][65] The other is that the Albanians are the descendants of Illyrian tribes located north of the Jireček Line and probably north or northeast of Albania.[66]

Arguments for Illyrian origin[edit]

The arguments for the Illyrian-Albanian connection have been as follows:[63][67]

  • The national name Albania is derived from Albanoi,[68][69][70] an Illyrian tribe mentioned by Ptolemy about 150 AD.
  • From what is known from the old Balkan populations territories (Greeks, Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians), the Albanian language is spoken in the same region where Illyrian was spoken in ancient times.[71]
  • There is no evidence of any major migration into Albanian territory since the records of Illyrian occupation.[71] Because descent from Illyrians makes "geographical sense" and there is no linguistic or historical evidence proving a replacement, then the burden of proof lies on the side of those who would deny a connection of Albanian with Illyrian.[72]
  • The Albanian tribal society has preserved the ancient Illyrian social structure based on tribal units.[73][74]
  • Many of what remain as attested words to Illyrian have an Albanian explanation and also a number of Illyrian lexical items (toponyms, hydronyms, oronyms, anthroponyms, etc.) have been linked to Albanian.[75]
  • Words borrowed from Greek (e.g. Gk (NW) mākhaná "device, instrument" > mokër "millstone", Gk (NW) drápanon > drapër "sickle" etc.) date back before the Christian era[71] and are mostly of the Doric Greek dialect,[76] which means that the ancestors of the Albanians were in contact with the northwestern part of Ancient Greek civilization and probably borrowed words from Greek cities (Dyrrachium, Apollonia, etc.) in the Illyrian territory, colonies which belonged to the Doric division of Greek, or from contacts in the Epirus area.
  • Words borrowed from Latin (e.g. Latin aurum > ar "gold", gaudium > gaz "joy" etc.[77]) date back before the Christian era,[67][71] while the Illyrians on the territory of modern Albania were the first from the old Balkan populations to be conquered by Romans in 229–167 BC, the Thracians were conquered in 45 AD and the Dacians in 106 AD.
  • The ancient Illyrian place-names of the region have achieved their current form following Albanian phonetic rules e.g. Durrachion > Durrës (with the Albanian initial accent), Aulona > Vlorë (with rhotacism), Scodra > Shkodër, etc.[67][71][76][78]

The characteristics of the Albanian dialects Tosk and Geg[79] in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages, have led to the conclusion that the dialectal split occurred after Christianisation of the region (4th century AD) and at the time of the Slavic migration to the Balkans[71][80] or thereafter between the 6th to 7th century AD[81] with the historic boundary between the Geg and Tosk dialects being the Shkumbin river[82] which straddled the Jireček line.[67][83]

Arguments against Illyrian origin[edit]

The theory of an Illyrian origin of the Albanians is challenged on archaeological and linguistic grounds.[84]

  • Although the Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi and the place Albanopolis could be located near Krujë, nothing proves a relation of this tribe to the Albanians, whose name appears for the first time in the 11th century in Byzantine sources.[85]
  • According to Bulgarian linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev, the theory of an Illyrian origin for the Albanians is weakened by a lack of any Albanian names before the 12th century and the relative absence of Greek influence that would surely be present if the Albanians inhabited their homeland continuously since ancient times.[86] According to Georgiev, if the Albanians originated near modern-day Albania, the number of Greek loanwords in the Albanian language should be higher.[87]
  • Local or personal names considered Illyrian were not passed down to Albanian without interruption (for example Scodra > Shkodra, a loan from Latin, and various other toponyms and hydronyms in modern Albania such as Vlorë and Vjosë which are loans from Slavic).[88][89][90] As such Albanian could not be considered a linguistic descendant of Illyrian or Thracian except from an undocumented Balkan Indo-European language.[89] Instead some toponyms that follow a phonetic development consistent with sound laws of the Albanian language are located within the inner Balkans such as Nish < Naissus, Ναισσός[90] though that etymology is a matter of dispute.[91] The Albanian language is a close relation of both Messapian and Illyrian that as such Albanian words in certain instances have been able to explain Messapic and Illyrian words.[89] Examples include the Illyrian tribe Taulantioi > Albanian dallëndyshe (swallow), the Messapic word βρένδο/brendo- (stag) and the toponym Brundisium (modern Brindisi) > Old Gheg bri, Messapic ῥινός/rinos (clouds) > Old Gheg/Old Tosk re (cloud).[89]
  • According to Georgiev, although some Albanian toponyms descend from Illyrian, Illyrian toponyms from antiquity have not changed according to the usual phonetic laws applying to the evolution of Albanian. Furthermore, placenames can be a special case and the Albanian language more generally has not been proven to be of Illyrian stock.[85]
  • Many linguists have tried to link Albanian with Illyrian, but without clear results.[85][92] Albanian shows traces of satemization within the Indo-European language tree, however the majority of Albanologists[93] hold that unlike most satem languages it has preserve the distinction of /kʷ/ and /gʷ/ from /k/ and /g/ before front vowels (merged in satem languages), and there is a debate whether Illyrian was centum or satem. On the other hand, Dacian[92] and Thracian[94] seem to belong to satem.
  • There is a lack of clear archaeological evidence for a continuous settlement of an Albanian-speaking population since Illyrian times. For example, while Albanians scholars maintain that the Komani-Kruja burial sites support the Illyrian-Albanian continuity theory, most scholars reject this and consider that the remains indicate a population of Romanized Illyrians who spoke a Romance language.[95][96][97]

Thracian or Dacian origin[edit]

Albanians from the 5th to 10th centuries according to the Dacian theory.

Aside from an Illyrian origin, a Dacian or Thracian origin is also hypothesized. There are a number of factors taken as evidence for a Dacian or Thracian origin of Albanians. According to Vladimir Orel, for example, the territory associated with proto-Albanian almost certainly does not correspond with that of modern Albania, i.e. the Illyrian coast, but rather that of Dacia Ripensis and farther north.[98]

The Romanian historian I. I. Russu has originated the theory that Albanians represent a massive migration of the Carpi population pressed by the Slavic migrations. Due to political reasons the book was first published in 1995 and translated in German by Konrad Gündisch.[99]

The German historian Gottfried Schramm (1994) suggests an origin of the Albanians in the Bessoi, a Thracian tribe that was Christianized as early as during the 4th century. Schramm argues that such an early Christianization would explain the otherwise surprising virtual absence of any traces of a pre-Christian pagan religion among the Albanians as they appear in history during the Late Middle Ages.[100] According to this theory, the Bessoi were deported en masse by the Byzantines at the beginning of the 9th century to central Albania for the purpose of fighting against the Bulgarians. In their new homeland, the ancestors of the Albanians took the geographic name Arbanon as their ethnic name and proceeded to assimilate local populations of Slavs, Greeks, and Romans.[101]

Cities whose names follow Albanian phonetic laws – such as Shtip (Štip), Shkupi (Skopje) and Nish (Niš) – lie in the areas, believed to historically been inhabited by Thracians, Paionians and Dardani; the latter is most often considered an Illyrian tribe by ancient historians. While there still is no clear picture of where the Illyrian-Thracian border was, Niš is mostly considered Illyrian territory.[102]

There are some close correspondences between Thracian and Albanian words.[103] However, as with Illyrian, most Dacian and Thracian words and names have not been closely linked with Albanian (v. Hamp). Also, many Dacian and Thracian placenames were made out of joined names (such as Dacian Sucidava or Thracian Bessapara; see List of Dacian cities and List of ancient Thracian cities), while the modern Albanian language does not allow this.[103]

Bulgarian linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev posits that Albanians descend from a Dacian population from Moesia, now the Morava region of eastern Serbia, and that Illyrian toponyms are found in a far smaller area than the traditional area of Illyrian settlement.[15] According to Georgiev, Latin loanwords into Albanian show East Balkan Latin (proto-Romanian) phonetics, rather than West Balkan (Dalmatian) phonetics.[84] Combined with the fact that the Romanian language contains several hundred words similar only to Albanian, Georgiev proposes the Albanian language formed between the 4th and 6th centuries in or near modern-day Romania, which was Dacian territory.[87] He suggests that Romanian is a fully Romanised Dacian language, whereas Albanian is only partly so.[104] Albanian and Eastern Romance also share grammatical features (see Balkan language union) and phonological features, such as the common phonemes or the rhotacism of "n".[105]

Apart from the linguistic theory that Albanian is more akin to East Balkan Romance (i.e. Dacian substrate) than West Balkan Romance (i.e. Illyrian/Dalmatian substrate), Georgiev also notes that marine words in Albanian are borrowed from other languages, suggesting that Albanians were not originally a coastal people.[104] According to Georgiev the scarcity of Greek loan words also supports a Dacian theory – if Albanians originated in the region of Illyria there would surely be a heavy Greek influence.[104] Lastly, Georgiev also notes that Illyrian toponyms do not follow Albanian phonetic laws.[104] According to historian John Van Antwerp Fine, who does define "Albanians" in his glossary as "an Indo-European people, probably descended from the ancient Illyrians",[106] nevertheless states that "these are serious (non-chauvinistic) arguments that cannot be summarily dismissed."[104]

Hamp, on the other hand, seems to agree with Georgiev in relation to Albania with Dacian but disagrees on the chronological order of events. Hamp argues that Albanians could have arrived in Albania through present-day Kosovo sometime in the late Roman period. Also, contrary to Georgiev, he indicates there are words that follow Dalmatian phonetic rules in Albanian, giving as an example the word drejt 'straight' < d(i)rectus matching developments in Old Dalmatian traita < tract.[107]

There are no records that indicate a major migration of Dacians into present-day Albania, but two Dacian cities existed: Thermidava[108][109][110] close to Scodra and Quemedava[110] in Dardania. Also, the Thracian settlement of Dardapara existed in Dardania. Phrygian tribes such as the Bryges were present in Albania near Durrës since before the Roman conquest (v. Hamp).[103] An argument against a Thracian origin (which does not apply to Dacian) is that most Thracian territory was on the Greek half of the Jireček Line, aside from varied Thracian populations stretching from Thrace into Albania, passing through Paionia and Dardania and up into Moesia; it is considered that most Thracians were Hellenized in Thrace (v. Hoddinott) and Macedonia.

The Dacian theory could also be consistent with the known patterns of barbarian incursions. Although there is no documentation of an Albanian migration, "during the fourth to sixth centuries the Rumanian region was heavily affected by large-scale invasion of Goths and Slavs, and the Morava valley (in Serbia) was a main invasion route and the site of the earliest known Slavic sites. Thus this would have been a region from which an indigenous population would naturally have fled".[104]

Theories of influence from an extinct, unidentified Romance language[edit]

Romanian scholars such as Vatasescu and Mihaescu, using lexical analysis of the Albanian language, have concluded that Albanian was heavily influenced by an extinct Romance language that was distinct from both Romanian and Dalmatian. Because the Latin words common to only Romanian and Albanian are significantly less than those that are common to only Albanian and Western Romance, Mihaescu argues that the Albanian language evolved in a region with much greater contact to Western Romance regions than to Romanian-speaking regions, and located this region in present-day Albania, Kosovo and Western Macedonia, spanning east to Bitola and Pristina.[111]

It has been concluded that the partial Latinization of Roman-era Albania was heavy in coastal areas, the plains and along the Via Egnatia, which passed through Albania. In these regions, Madgearu notes that the survival of Illyrian names and the depiction of people with Illyrian dress on gravestones is not enough to prove successful resistance against Romanization, and that in these regions there were many Latin inscriptions and Roman settlements. Madgearu concludes that only the northern mountain regions escaped Romanization. In some regions, Madgearu concludes that it has been shown that in some areas a Latinate population that survived until at least the seventh century passed on local placenames, which had mixed characteristics of Eastern and Western Romance, into the Albanian language.[111]

Archaeological evidence[edit]

The Koman culture theory, which is generally viewed by Albanian archaeologists as archaeological evidence of evolution from "Illyrian" ancestors to medieval Albanians, has found little support outside Albania.[112][113][114] Indeed, Anglo-American anthropologists highlight that even if regional population continuity can be proven, this does not translate into linguistic, much less ethnic continuity. Both aspects of culture can be modified or drastically changed even in the absence of large-scale population flux.[115]

Prominent in the discussions are certain brooch forms, seen to derive from Illyrian prototypes. However, a recent analysis revealed that whilst broad analogies are indeed evident to Iron Age Illyrian forms, the inspiration behind Komani fibulae is more closely linked to Late Roman fibulae, particularly those from Balkan forts in the present-day Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria.[113] This might suggest that after the general collapse of the Roman limes in the early 7th century, some late Roman population withdrew to Epirus.[113] However, assemblages also have many "barbarian" artefacts, such as Slavic bow-fibulae, Avar-styled belt mounts and Carolingian glass vessels.[116][117] By contrast, beyond the immediate Adriatic littoral, most of the west Balkans (including Dardania) appears to have been depopulated after the early 7th century from almost a century.[118] Another aspect of discontinuity is the design of the tombs: pits lined by limestone rocks, a construction used in the region since the Iron Age period. However the tombs in the 7th century, such burials are in a Christian context (placed next to churches) rather than reversion to a pagan Illyrian past.[117]

A further argument against a proto-Albanian affinity of the Komani culture is that very similar material is found in central Dalmatia, Montenegro, western Macedonia and south-eastern Bulgaria, along the Via Egnatia; and even islands such as Corfu and Sardinia. The "late Roman" character of the assemblages has led some to hypothesize that it represented Byzantine garrisons.[119] However, already by this time, literary sources give testimony of widespread Slavic settlements in the central Balkans.[116] Specifically for Albania, the study of lexicon and toponyms might suggest that speakers of proto-Albanian, Slavic and Romance co-existed but occupied specific ecologic/ economic niches.[114]

Genetic studies[edit]

Various genetic studies have been done on the European population, some of them including current Albanian population, Albanian-speaking populations outside Albania, and the Balkan region as a whole.


The three haplogroups most strongly associated with Albanian people (E-V13, R1b and J2b2) are often considered to have arrived in Europe from the Near East with the Neolithic revolution or late Mesolithic, early in the Holocene epoch. Within the Balkans, all three have a local peak in Kosovo, and are overall more common among Albanians, Greeks and Vlachs than Slavs (albeit with some representation among Bulgarians). R1b has much higher frequencies in areas of Europe further to the West, while E1b1b and J2 are widespread at lower frequencies throughout Europe and also have very large frequencies among Greeks, Italians, Macedonians and Bulgarians.

  • Haplogroups in the modern Albanian population is dominated by sub-clade E1b1b1a (E-M78) and specifically by the most common European sub-clade of E-M78, E-V13.[9] E-M78 most likely originated in northeastern Africa, while its subclade E-V13 originated in western Asia, and first expanded into Europe some 5300 years ago.[9] The current distribution of this lineage might be the result of several demographic expansions from the Balkans, such as that associated with the Neolithic revolution, the Balkan Bronze Age, and more recently, during the Roman era with the so-called "rise of Illyrican soldiery".[7][8][120][121][122] The peak of the haplogroup in Kosovo, however, has been attributed to genetic drift.[8]
  • Y haplogroup J in the modern Balkans is mainly represented by the sub-clade J2b (also known as J-M12 or J-M102). Like E-V13, J2b is spread throughout Europe with a seeming centre and origin in the Balkans.[7][8][121] Its relatives within the J2 clade are also found in high frequencies elsewhere in Southern Europe, especially Greece and Italy, where it is more diverse. J2b itself is fairly rare outside of ethnic Albanian territory (where it hovers around 14-16%), but can also be found at significant frequencies among Romanians (8.9%)[123] and Greeks (8.7%).[7] A skeleton dated 1631-1521BC found in a tumulus in Veliki Vanik, Croatia was tested positive for J2b2a-L283[124].
  • Haplogroup R1b is common all over Europe but especially common on the western Atlantic coast of Europe, and is also found in the Middle East, the Caucasus and some parts of Africa. In Europe including the Balkans, it tends to be less common in Slavic speaking areas, where R1a is often more common. It shows similar frequencies among Albanians and Greeks at around 20% of the male population, but is much less common elsewhere in the Balkans.[8]
  • Y haplogroup I is represented by I1 more common in northern Europe and I2 where several of its sub-clades are found in significant amounts in the South Slavic population. The specific I sub-clade which has attracted most discussion in Balkan studies currently referred to as I2a1b, defined by SNP M423[125][126] This clade has higher frequencies to the north of the Albanophone area, in Dalmatia and Bosnia.[8] The expansion of I2a-Din took place with the Slavic migration in the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages.[127]
  • Haplogroup R1a is common in Central and Eastern Europe (and is also common in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent). In the Balkans, it is strongly associated with Slavic areas.[8]

A study by Battaglia et al. in 2008[7] found the following haplogroup distributions among Albanians in Albania itself:

N E-M78* E1b1b1a* E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2 G P15* G2a* I-M253* I1* I M423 I2a1* I M223 I2b1 J M267* J1* J M67* J2a1b* J M92 J2a1b1 J M241 J2b2 R M17* R1a1* R M269 R1b1b2
55 1.8% 23.6% 1.8% 3.6% 14.5% 3.6% 3.6% 3.6% 1.8% 14.5% 9.1% 18.2%

The same study by Battaglia et al. (2008) also found the following distributions among Albanians in Macedonia:

N E-M78* E1b1b1a* E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2 E-M123 E1b1b1c G P15* G2a* I M253* I1* I P37.2* I2a* I M423 I2a1* I M26 I2a2 J M267* J1* J M67* J2a1b* J M241 J2b2 R M17* R1a1* R M269 R1b1b2
64 1.6% 34.4% 3.1% 1.6% 4.7% 1.6% 9.4% 1.6% 6.3% 1.6% 14.1% 1.6% 18.8%

The same study by Battaglia et al. (2008) also found the following distributions among Albanians in Albania itself and Albanians in Macedonia:

N E-M78* E1b1b1a* E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2 E-M123 E1b1b1c G P15* G2a* I M253* I1* I P37.2* I2a* I M423 I2a1* I M26 I2a2 I M223 I2b1 J M267* J1* J M67* J2a1b* J M92 J2a1b1 J M241 J2b2 R M17* R1a1* R M269 R1b1b2
119 1.68% 29.5% 1.68% 1.68% 4.2% 0.84% 11.75% 0.84% 1.68% 5.05% 2.53% 0.84% 14.3% 5.05% 18.5%

A study by Peričić et al. in 2005[8] found the following Y-Dna haplogroup frequencies in Albanians from Kosovo with E-V13 subclade of haplogroup E1b1b representing 43.85% of the total (note that Albanians from other regions have slightly lower percentages of E-V13, but similar J2b and R1b):

N E-M78* E3b1 E-M78* α* E3b1-α E-M81* E3b2 E-M123* E3b3 J-M241* J2e1 I-M253* I1a I-P37* I1b*(xM26) R-M173* R1b R SRY-1532* R1a R P*(xQ,R1)
114 1.75% 43.85% 0.90% 0.90% 16.70% 5.31% 2.65% 21.10% 4.42% 1.77%
N E-M78* E1b1b1a* E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2 E-M81* E3b2 E-M123 E1b1b1c G P15* G2a* I M253* I1* I-P37* I1b*(xM26) I P37.2* I2a* I M423 I2a1* I M26 I2a2 I M223 I2b1 J M267* J1* J M67* J2a1b* J M92 J2a1b1 J M241 J2b2 J2e1 R P*(xQ,R1) R SRY-1532* R1a R M17* R1a1* R M269 R1b1b2
233 1.71% 36.50% 0.43% 1.29% 0.86% 4.72% 1.29% 0.43% 6.00% 0.43% 0.86% 2.58% 1.29% 0.43% 15.46% 0.86% 2.15% 2.58% 19.75%
Albanian groups in traditional clothes during folklore festivals: from Tropojë (left) and Skrapar (right)

A study on the Y chromosome haplotypes DYS19 STR and YAP and on mitochondrial DNA found no significant difference between Albanians and most other Europeans.[128]


Another study of old Balkan populations and their genetic affinities with current European populations was done in 2004, based on mitochondrial DNA on the skeletal remains of some old Thracian populations from SE of Romania, dating from the Bronze and Iron Age.[129] This study was during excavations of some human fossil bones of 20 individuals dating about 3200–4100 years, from the Bronze Age, belonging to some cultures such as Tei, Monteoru and Noua were found in graves from some necropoles SE of Romania, namely in Zimnicea, Smeeni, Candesti, Cioinagi-Balintesti, Gradistea-Coslogeni and Sultana-Malu Rosu; and the human fossil bones and teeth of 27 individuals from the early Iron Age, dating from the 10th to 7th centuries BC from the Hallstatt Era (the Babadag culture), were found extremely SE of Romania near the Black Sea coast, in some settlements from Dobruja, namely: Jurilovca, Satu Nou, Babadag, Niculitel and Enisala-Palanca.[129] After comparing this material with the present-day European population, the authors concluded:

Computing the frequency of common point mutations of the present-day European population with the Thracian population has resulted that the Italian (7.9%), the Albanian (6.3%) and the Greek (5.8%) have shown a bias of closer genetic kinship with the Thracian individuals than the Romanian and Bulgarian individuals (only 4.2%).[129]

Autosomal DNA[edit]

Analysis of autosomal DNA, which analyses all genetic components has revealed that few rigid genetic discontinuities exist in European populations, apart from certain outliers such as Saami, Sardinians, Basques, Finns and Kosovar Albanians. They found that Albanians, on the one hand, have a high amount of identity by descent sharing, suggesting that Albanian-speakers derived from a relatively small population that expanded recently and rapidly in the last 1,500 years. On the other hand, they are not wholly isolated or endogamous because Greek and Macedonian samples shared much higher numbers of common ancestors with Albanian speakers than with other neighbors, possibly a result of historical migrations, or else perhaps smaller effects of the Slavic expansion in these populations. At the same time the sampled Italians shared nearly as much IBD with Albanian speakers as with each other.[130]

Obsolete theories[edit]

Italian theory[edit]

Laonikos Chalkokondyles (c. 1423–1490), the Byzantine historian, considered the Albanians to be an extension of the Italians.[131] The theory has its origin in the first mention of the Albanians, disputed whether it refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense,[132] made by Attaliates (11th century): "...For when subsequent commanders made base and shameful plans and decisions, not only was the island lost to Byzantium, but also the greater part of the army. Unfortunately, the people who had once been our allies and who possessed the same rights as citizens and the same religion, i.e. the Albanians and the Latins, who live in the Italian regions of our Empire beyond Western Rome, quite suddenly became enemies when Michael Dokeianos insanely directed his command against their leaders..."[133]

Caucasian theory[edit]

One of the earliest theories on the origins of the Albanians, now considered obsolete, incorrectly identified the proto-Albanians with an area of the eastern Caucasus, separately referred to by classical geographers as Caucasian Albania, located in what roughly corresponds to modern-day southern Dagestan, northern Azerbaijan and bordering Caucasian Iberia to its west. This theory conflated the two Albanias supposing that the ancestors of the Balkan Albanians (Shqiptarët) had migrated westward in the late classical or early medieval period. The Caucasian theory was first proposed by Renaissance humanists who were familiar with the works of classical geographers, and later developed by early 19th-century French consul and writer François Pouqueville. It was soon rendered obsolete in the 19th century when linguists proved Albanian as being an Indo-European, rather than Caucasian language.[134]

Pelasgian theory[edit]

Another obsolete[135][136] theory on the origin of the Albanians is that they descend from the Pelasgians, a broad term used by classical authors to denote the autochthonous inhabitants of Greece. This theory was developed by the Austrian linguist Johann Georg von Hahn in his work Albanesische Studien in 1854. According to Hahn, the Pelasgians were the original proto-Albanians and the language spoken by the Pelasgians, Illyrians, Epirotes and ancient Macedonians were closely related. This theory quickly attracted support in Albanian circles, as it established a claim of predecence over other Balkan nations, particularly the Greeks. In addition to establishing "historic right" to territory this theory also established that the ancient Greek civilization and its achievements had an "Albanian" origin.[137] The theory gained staunch support among early 20th-century Albanian publicists.[138] This theory is rejected by scholars today.[139] In contemporary times with the Arvanite revival of the Pelasgian theory, it has also been recently borrowed by other Albanian speaking populations within and from Albania in Greece to counter the negative image of their communities.[140]

See also[edit]


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  79. ^ In Tosk /a/ before a nasal has become a central vowel (shwa), and intervocalic /n/ has become /r/. These two sound changes have affected only the pre-Slav stratum of the Albanian lexicon, that is the native words and loanwords from Greek and Latin (page 23) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN 0-08-087774-5, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7
  80. ^ The dialectal split into Geg and Tosk happened sometime after the region become Christianized in the fourth century AD; Christian Latin loanwords show Tosk rhotacism, such as Tosk murgu "monk" (Geg mungu) from Lat. monachus. (page 392) Indo-European language and culture: an introduction By Benjamin W. Fortson Edition: 5, illustrated Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2004 ISBN 1-4051-0316-7, ISBN 978-1-4051-0316-9
  81. ^ Ammon, Ulrich; Dittmar, Norbert; Mattheier, Klaus J.; Trudgill, Peter (2006). Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1876. ISBN 9783110184181. "Following the Slavic invasions of the Balkans (sixth and seventh centuries CE) Common Albanian split into two major dialect complexes that can be identified today by a bundle of isoglosses running through the middle of Albania along and just to the south of the river Shkumbini south of Elbasan, then along the course of the Black Drin (Drin i Zi, Crni Drim) through the middle of Struga on the north shore of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. The two major dialect groups are known as Tosk (south of the bundle) and Gheg north of the bundle).
  82. ^ The river Shkumbin in central Albania historically forms the boundary between those two dialects, with the population on the north speaking varieties of Geg and the population on the south varieties of Tosk. (page 23) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier,2008 ISBN 0-08-087774-5, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7
  83. ^ See also Hamp 1963 The isogloss is clear in all dialects I have studied, which embrace nearly all types possible. It must be relatively old, that is, dating back into the post-Roman first millennium. As a guess, it seems possible that this isogloss reflects a spread of the speech area, after the settlement of the Albanians in roughly their present location, so that the speech area straddled the Jireček Line.
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  132. ^ The wars of the Balkan Peninsula: their medieval origins G - Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series Authors Alexandru Madgearu, Martin Gordon Editor Martin Gordon Translated by Alexandru Madgearu Edition illustrated Publisher Scarecrow Press, 2008 ISBN 0-8108-5846-0, ISBN 978-0-8108-5846-6 It was supposed that those Albanoi from 1042 were Normans from Sicily, called by an archaic name (the Albanoi were an independent tribe from Southern Italy), p. 25,
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  134. ^ Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie; Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (September 2002). Albanian identities: myth and history. Indiana University Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-253-21570-3
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  139. ^ Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie; Fischer, Bernd Jürgen (September 2002). Albanian identities: myth and history. Indiana University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0-253-21570-3. ...Such derivations, almost all of which would be rejected by modern scholars...
  140. ^ De Rapper, Gilles (2009). "Pelasgic Encounters in the Greek–Albanian Borderland: Border Dynamics and Reversion to Ancient Past in Southern Albania." Anthropological Journal of European Cultures. 18. (1): 60-61. “In 2002, another important book was translated from Greek: Aristides Kollias’ Arvanites and the Origin of Greeks, first published in Athens in 1983 and re-edited several times since then (Kollias 1983; Kolia 2002). In this book, which is considered a cornerstone of the rehabilitation of Arvanites in post- dictatorial Greece, the author presents the Albanian speaking population of Greece, known as Arvanites, as the most authentic Greeks because their language is closer to ancient Pelasgic, who were the first inhabitants of Greece. According to him, ancient Greek was formed on the basis of Pelasgic, so that man Greek words have an Albanian etymology. In the Greek context, the book initiated a ‘counterdiscourse’ (Gefou-Madianou 1999: 122) aiming at giving Arvanitic communities of southern Greece a positive role in Greek history. This was achieved by using nineteenth-century ideas on Pelasgians and by melting together Greeks and Albanians in one historical genealogy (Baltsiotis and Embirikos 2007: 130—431, 445). In the Albanian context of the 1990s and 2000s, the book is read as proving the anteriority of Albanians not only in Albania but also in Greece; it serves mainly the rehabilitation of Albanians as an antique and autochthonous population in the Balkans. These ideas legitimise the presence of Albanians in Greece and give them a decisive role in the development of ancient Greek civilisation and, later on, the creation of the modern Greek state, in contrast to the general negative image of Albanians in contemporary Greek society. They also reverse the unequal relation between the migrants and the host country, making the former the heirs of an autochthonous and civilised population from whom the latter owes everything that makes their superiority in the present day.”


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