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Analysis of geographic variation for eight red cell markers in Italy shows significant spatial structure for most alleles. Effective population sizes estimated from FST values at these loci are much smaller than those predicted from data on consanguineous marriage, suggesting the presence of factors (presumably barriers) that have reduced gene flow and enhanced the evolutionary weight of genetic drift. Most regions of sharp gene frequency change correspond to geographic and linguistic barriers. Two allele frequencies are significantly correlated with measures of linguistic differentiation but not with indexes describing broad religious and social attitudes. The similarity between patterns of genetic and linguistic variation in Italy, also observed in a previous study, suggests that in specific areas linguistic diversity has acted as a biological barrier constraining mating, dispersal, or both. There is no evidence for a similar role of other extant cultural barriers.