Monday, June 18, 2007

Origins of the Ancient Etruscans Pinpointed

The origin of the ancient Etruscan people of Northern Italy has long been an archaeological mystery. Their culture and artwork differs greatly from that of every other group of people living in Italy. There have been three competing theories of their origins. One holds that they arose indigenously from the North Italian plains, another that they immigrated to the area from somewhere north of the Alps, and the other that they came from the Near East, possibly Anatolia. New DNA testing of the inhabitants of the area and comparisons with other genetic evidence from the Mediterranean basin show fairly conclusive evidence of the orgin being in modern Turkey, in what was then called Lydia, (modern Izmir) along the south-eastern coast.

"The scientists compared DNA samples taken from healthy males living in Tuscany, Northern Italy, the Southern Balkans, the island of Lemnos in Greece, and the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The Tuscan samples were taken from individuals who had lived in the area for at least three generations, and were selected on the basis of their surnames, which were required to have a geographical distribution not extending beyond the linguistic area of sampling. The samples were compared with data from modern Turkish, South Italian, European and Middle-Eastern populations."

The mystery has been long running: the three competing theories were proposed by Classical Greek historians, and it turns out Herodotus, the father of history, was right all along about the cultures origins. The Etruscans settled in Italy during the late Bronze era, probably before 1200 BC. It is thought that a long famine in their homeland led to the migration to Italy. The culture had a profound influence on the later development of the neighboring Roman culture.

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