Inferring patterns of folktale: diffusion using genomic data

Sara Graça Silva, Eugenio Bortolinia, Luca Pagani, Enrico R. Crema, Stefania Sarno, Chiara Barbier, Alessio Boattini, Marco Sazzini, Gessica Martini, Mait Metspalu, Davide Pettener, Donata Luiselli, Jamshid J. Tehrani

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents unprecedented evidence on the transmission mechanism underlying the spread of a broad cross-cultural assemblage of folktales in Eurasia and Africa. State-of-the art genomic evidence is used to directly assess the relevance of demic diffusion processes, in particular on the distribution of Old World folktales at intermediate geographic scales, and identify individual stories that are more likely to be transmitted through population movement and replacement. The results provide an empirical solution to operate with linguistic barriers and highlight the impossibility of disentangling genetic from geographic relationships at a cross-continental scale, warning against the direct use of extant genetic variability to infer processes of long-range cultural transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9140-9145
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • cultural diffusion
  • demic diffusion
  • whole-genome sequences
  • folktales


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