Are People From Hvar Descended from China? The DNA Evidence

Total Croatia News

I really haven’t been drinking.

The research started due to a comment made by a famous cathedral architect from England, who has just enjoyed a wonderful 2-week holiday in Jelsa.

Is it really possible that there are people on Hvar who are descended from China?

My architect friend was reading a rather controversial book by Gavin Menzies called 1434. I have not read or seen it, but the book has a hypothesis (as I understand) that the Chinese sailed into the region in 1434 and were responsible for starting the Renaissance. Menzies’ theories are controversial and they include the claim that the Chinese stopped off on Hvar, leaving slaves and other people, before sailing on. Here is what I found online in a critique on the Cornell University website:

“Consider, for example, the e-mail Menzies received in 2007 from Dr. A.C.
Lovric, a geneticist. As evidence that Chinese sailors visited the Dalmatian coast in
1434, Lovric cited legends indicating that “oblique-eyed yellow easterners” landed along
the Adriatic sometime before 1522, and studies asserting that on Hvar and other islands,
inhabitants have East Asian genotypes, non-Slavic and non-European surnames, and use
a non-European nomenclature for America.”

“The DNA test Dr. Lovric referred to identified several explanations for these
phenomena. The research paper on Dalmatian names he relied on has not yet been
translated from Croatian into English. Nonetheless, Menzies concludes, with
breathtaking specificity, that the “results are part of a logical sequence of events”: One of
Zheng He’s ships berthed on the coast; sailors and slave girls jumped ship and melted into
the countryside; the fleet proceeded to Venice and Florence; returned to Dalmatia in late
1434; and on the way home, the Chinese were joined by a Dalmatian fleet, under Admiral
Harvatye Mariakyr, which discovered thirty Pacific islands and gave them Dalmatian

DNA testing on Hvar residents pointing to genetic origins from Asia? Preposterous! Except…

There were other, more scientific references out there on the web, including the European Journal of Human Genetics:

“Mitochondrial DNA polymorphism was analysed in a sample of 108 Croatians from the Adriatic Island isolate of Hvar. Besides typically European varieties of human maternal lineages, haplogroup F was found in a considerable frequency (8.3%). This haplogroup is most frequent in southeast Asia but has not been reported before in Europe. The genealogical analysis of haplogroup F cases from Hvar suggested founder effect. Subsequent field work was undertaken to sample and analyse 336 persons from three neighbouring islands (Brac, Korcula and Krk) and 379 more persons from all Croatian mainland counties and to determine if haplogroup F is present in the general population. Only one more case was found in one of the mainland cities, with no known ancestors from Hvar Island. The first published phylogenetic analysis of haplogroup F worldwide is presented, applying the median network method, suggesting several scenarios how this maternal lineage may have been added to the Croatian mtDNA pool. European Journal of Human Genetics (2001) 9, 717-723.”

There was even an academic paper:


“The Island of Hvar is situated in the central eastern Adriatic, and its relatively small rural population has been reproductively isolated thought history. Therefore, founder effects, genetic drift and inbreeding have had significant role in the shaping of current genetic diversity of Hvar Islanders.

“We analyzed Y-chromosome SNP markers of 412 Hvar islanders in high resolution, with the aim to investigate the current paternal genetic diversity. We found a relatively high frequency (6.1%) of unrelated male samples belonging to the Q*-M424 haplogroup, which is unusual for European populations.

“Interestingly, a previous study showed 9 individuals from Hvar with mitochondrial haplogroup F, which is almost absent in Europe. Both findings could indicate a certain connection with Asian populations, where these haplogroups are most common. This might be a result of several migratory events in the history, one of which could be linked to the ancient Silk Road, the other a consequence of the arrival of the Slavs, following the Avars, to the eastern Adriatic in the 6th century or due to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in 16th to 18th century.

“The presence of these rare mitochondrial and Y-chromosome lineages are an example of founder effect and random genetic drift which, in this small island with a high degree of isolation and endogamy, had a strong impact on shaping the genetic diversity of the population.”

If anyone has any more info on this, I would love to hear from you. Please contact us on [email protected]  


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