Peopling of the World: Europe

The Muslim Expansion into Europe

What did one Neanderthal say to the other Neanderthal?
The Aesthetic Ambivalence of the Neanderthals
The Origins of Mediterranean Cave Art
The Muslim Expansion into Europe
Celts in the British Isles
European Language Development

What effects did the expansion of Arab Muslims have on areas of Europe such as the Iberian Peninsula? What effects did these expansions of Islam have on the genetics and languages of the people living in this regions?  Using genetic and linguistic evidence the picture is clear that throughout the 700 year occupation of Iberia by Moorish invaders the area went through great changes that are still seen today.


The Muslim expansion into Europe came as a suprise the continent was beggining to shed its image and get out of the shadow of the once great Roman Empire but this meant that the once great unified territory had been split into multiple principalities and provinces fighting for control over small regions of territory. In other words the European continent was ripe for conquest and expansion.  The first inhabitants in Europe to experience the power of the East was the Iberian Peninsula

A Moorish Army circa 800 CE

After the fall of the Roman Empire the Iberian Peninsula became populated by a Germanic tribe called the Visigoths but these invaders were soon met by another invasion from the East.  In 711, the Umayyad Empire invaded the peninsula and quickly conquered the lands of spain and began to move into France until they were stopped at Poiters in 732.  The invading army were known as the Moors.  The Muslim Moorish invaders were a force led by Arab muslims and other peoples from the recently conquered lands of the Umayyad Empire including berbers other North African peoples.  The picture above clearly shows a Moorish army with Arab, Berber, and African soldiers. 

The Genetic Evidence

Recent mitochondrial DNA analysis performed on groups living in southern Spain and In North Africa around the Sraight of Gibraltar show that both groups share the same haplogroups found in the Middle East but also the groups in Spain still show a large number of haplogroups from Europe as well.  The Y chromosome data in these regions show an even lesser effect on populations. Around 10% of the population show decent from groups living in NW Africa.  This evidence may show that even though the region was inhabited from invaders from the south there was little gene flow actually happening between the Christian inhabitants and their Muslim invaders.  However further evidence reveals that out of the people with these haplogroups it has been found that the largest percentage of them have ancentry from Berbers rather than Arabs.

More genetic evidence

Linguistic Evidence

 Andalusi Arabic is a bundle of dialects resulting from the Arabic dialects brought into Spain in the 8th century by some thousands of Arabs who established Muslim political domination and cultural supremacy over the lands of the Iberian Peninsula. These Arabs brought along their own separate analytic-type dialects, with a Yemenite component.  This resulted in the formation of Andalusi dialects. 

Further linguistic evidence of the expansion can be heard in Spain everyday by people speaking Spanish words which were borrowed from Arabic or have Arabic origins.








 "olive oil"









Arabic Influences in language

Other influences of Arabic Muslim culture in Spain can be seen in Spanish Cuisine and other foods that share similarities with food found in NW Africa.  The effects of Arab influence is also seen in the numeral system, music notation system and musical instruments used in Spain and the whole of Europe.

Works Cited:

Ali, Yusuf.  "The Music of the Moors in Spain Origins of Andalusian Musical Art: Its Development and Influence on Western Culture." Golden Age of the Moor. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Press: p.278-330, 1992.

Bosch, Elena. et. al. "High-Resolution Analysis of Human Y-Chromosome Variation Shows a Sharp Discontinuity and Limited Gene Flow between Northwestern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula". The American Journal of Human Genetics. Vol:  68: p. 1019-1029, 2001.

Corriente, F. A grammatical sketch of the Spanish Arabic dialect bundle. Madrid. 1977.

Cox, George O.  "The Umayyad Empire and the Caliphate of Cordoba." Chap. in African Empires and Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval. Washington, D.C.: African Heritage Studies: p.133-58, 1974.

Plaza, S. et. al. "Joining the Pillars of Hercules: mtDNA Sequences Show Multidirectional Gene Flow in the Western Mediterranean." Annals of Human Genetics. Volume 67, Issue 4. p.312. July 2003.

Reynolds, Dana.  "The African Heritage and Ethnology of the Moors: Background to the Emergence of Early Berber and Arab Peoples, from prehistory to the Islamic Dynasties." Golden Age of the Moor. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Press: p.93-150, 1992.

By John Christensen