Skip to comments.Ancient Etruscans Were Immigrants From Anatolia (Turkey)
Posted on 06/17/2007 4:55:52 PM PDT by blam
Contact: Mary Rice
European Society of Human Genetics
Ancient Etruscans were immigrants from Anatolia, or what is now Turkey
Geneticists find the final piece in the puzzle
Nice, France: The long-running controversy about the origins of the Etruscan people appears to be very close to being settled once and for all, a geneticist will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today. Professor Alberto Piazza, from the University of Turin, Italy, will say that there is overwhelming evidence that the Etruscans, whose brilliant civilisation flourished 3000 years ago in what is now Tuscany, were settlers from old Anatolia (now in southern Turkey).
Etruscan culture was very advanced and quite different from other known Italian cultures that flourished at the same time, and highly influential in the development of Roman civilisation. Its origins have been debated by archaeologists, historians and linguists since time immemorial. Three main theories have emerged: that the Etruscans came from Anatolia, Southern Turkey, as propounded by the Greek historian Herotodus; that they were indigenous to the region and developed from the Iron Age Villanovan society, as suggested by another Greek historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus; or that they originated from Northern Europe.
Now modern genetic techniques have given scientists the tools to answer this puzzle. Professor Piazza and his colleagues set out to study genetic samples from three present-day Italian populations living in Murlo, Volterra, and Casentino in Tuscany, central Italy. We already knew that people living in this area were genetically different from those in the surrounding regions, he says. Murlo and Volterra are among the most archaeologically important Etruscan sites in a region of Tuscany also known for having Etruscan-derived place names and local dialects. The Casentino valley sample was taken from an area bordering the area where Etruscan influence has been preserved.
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.
We found that the DNA samples from individuals from Murlo and Volterra were more closely related those from near Eastern people than those of the other Italian samples, says Professor Piazza. In Murlo particularly, one genetic variant is shared only by people from Turkey, and, of the samples we obtained, the Tuscan ones also show the closest affinity with those from Lemnos.
Scientists had previously shown this same relationship for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in order to analyse female lineages. And in a further study, analysis of mtDNA of ancient breeds of cattle still living in the former Etruria found that they too were related to breeds currently living in the near East.
The history of the Etruscans extends before the Iron Age to the end of the Roman Republic or from c. 1200 BC to c. 100BC Many archaeological sites of the major Etruscan cities were continuously occupied since the Iron Age, and the people who lived in the Etruria region did not appear suddenly, nor did they suddenly start to speak Etruscan. Rather they learned to write from their Greek neighbours and thus revealed their language. Archaeologists and linguists are in agreement that the Etruscans had been developing their culture and language in situ before the first historical record of their existence.
But the question that remained to be answered was how long was this process between pre-history and history" says Professor Piazza. In 1885 a stele carrying an inscription in a pre-Greek language was found on the island of Lemnos, and dated to about the 6th century BC. Philologists agree that this has many similarities with the Etruscan language both in its form and structure and its vocabulary. But genetic links between the two regions have been difficult to find until now.
Herodotus theory, much criticised by subsequent historians, states that the Etruscans emigrated from the ancient region of Lydia, on what is now the southern coast of Turkey, because of a long-running famine. Half the population was sent by the king to look for a better life elsewhere, says his account, and sailed from Smyrna (now Izmir) until they reached Umbria in Italy.
We think that our research provides convincing proof that Herodotus was right, says Professor Piazza, and that the Etruscans did indeed arrive from ancient Lydia. However, to be 100% certain we intend to sample other villages in Tuscany, and also to test whether there is a genetic continuity between the ancient Etruscans and modern-day Tuscans. This will have to be done by extracting DNA from fossils; this has been tried before but the technique for doing so has proved to be very difficult.
Interestingly, this study of historical origins will give us some pointers for carrying out case-control studies of disease today, says Professor Piazza. In order to obtain a reliable result, we had to select the control population much more carefully that would normally be done, and we believe that this kind of careful selection would also help in studies of complex genetic diseases.
well, that would confirm what the ancient Romans supposed through their legends, and what Virgil immortalized in the Aeneid.
There is always more truth to ancient legend and myth than most people give it credit for.
It is quite amazing how often Heroditus is vindicated.
True - and myth is a entirely different language and form of communication of ideas that modern people are simply no longer capable of understanding.
I like the idea that the old historian appears to be right again.
The roman legends and the Aeneid - worthy masterpiece as it is - are about the Romans themselves and their linkage to Troy. This is regarding the Etruscans who predated Troy.
The tree-rings worldwide indicate a significant cooling event occurred in 1159BC. Coolness = dryness and dryness = famine. So...the Etruscans may have migrated because of the 1159BC event.
Lydia was actually on the west coast of Anatolia, not the south coast...not too far from the area of Troy. The Romans believed they were descended from the Trojan Aeneas, who had survived the fall of Troy and made his way to Italy, but the Etruscans seem to have had an interest in Aeneas as well--probably earlier. There are at least 17 vases from the 6th and 5th centuries BC showing Aeneas, 10 from the one Etruscan city of Vulci.
Perhaps there is some connection between the Trojan refugee legends and the Lydian legends. Herodotus claims to be giving the Etruscans' own version of their past, and a number of other Greek historians also assumed it to be true.
DNA Boosts Herodotus’ Account of Etruscans as Migrants to Italy
NY Times | April 3, 2007 | NICHOLAS WADE
Posted on 04/04/2007 12:27:29 AM EDT by neverdem
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Nice map, but it doesn’t label the location of Lydia. Sardis, the capital, was on a river which flowed west into the Aegean, and was the same latitude as the northern part of the island of Chios (a bit further north than Athens).
The HistoriesThe Lydians have very nearly the same customs as the Greeks, with the exception that these last do not bring up their girls in the same way. So far as we have any knowledge, they were the first nation to introduce the use of gold and silver coin, and the first who sold goods by retail. They claim also the invention of all the games which are common to them with the Greeks. These they declare that they invented about the time when they colonised Tyrrhenia, an event of which they give the following account. In the days of Atys, the son of Manes, there was great scarcity through the whole land of Lydia. For some time the Lydians bore the affliction patiently, but finding that it did not pass away, they set to work to devise remedies for the evil. Various expedients were discovered by various persons; dice, and huckle-bones, and ball, and all such games were invented, except tables, the invention of which they do not claim as theirs. The plan adopted against the famine was to engage in games one day so entirely as not to feel any craving for food, and the next day to eat and abstain from games. In this way they passed eighteen years. Still the affliction continued and even became more grievous. So the king determined to divide the nation in half, and to make the two portions draw lots, the one to stay, the other to leave the land. He would continue to reign over those whose lot it should be to remain behind; the emigrants should have his son Tyrrhenus for their leader. The lot was cast, and they who had to emigrate went down to Smyrna, and built themselves ships, in which, after they had put on board all needful stores, they sailed away in search of new homes and better sustenance. After sailing past many countries they came to Umbria, where they built cities for themselves, and fixed their residence. Their former name of Lydians they laid aside, and called themselves after the name of the king's son, who led the colony, Tyrrhenians.
tr by George Rawlinson
Book I -- Clio
Where Did The Etruscans Come From?
Etruscology website | June 2002 | Dieter H. Steinbauer
Posted on 08/06/2005 9:08:13 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
“There is always more truth to ancient legend and myth than most people give it credit for.”
I’ll say. For example, I have dated Medusa a number of times.
One of the other two links shows that.
I’m no historianologist but hasn’t Herotodos turned out to be right more than those who contradict him?
...but both civilizations were from pre-iron age Anatolia and so probably had contact.
Herodotus has been disliked by some down the centuries, and there are things in his book for some to criticize, but he gives four different ideas (three he heard about in Egypt, one that he made up) about the out-of-season flood phase of the Nile, and the correct one is in there; he tells us all that the circumnavigators of Africa saw the Sun to the north, even though he states he doesn’t believe this; he tells us that the Atlantic is connected to the Erythraean Sea, in which he includes the Gulf of Aqaba, Gulf of Suez, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean; and records plenty of other stuff which is true. Often he tells what he’s seen with his own eyes, and differentiates it from what he was told. And of course, he’s 2500 years closer than we are. :’)
The language of the Etruscan is a mystery to this day. Nobody knows what it is related to, like Ainu, Basque, and Sumerian.
Old news. Heard about this from my tour guide when I was 15.
Interesting! I’d like to check out this study.
On the other side of Greek historians was Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who was the first to suggest that the Etruscans were indigenous...mostly because (and not a bad reason either), they didn’t agree in language or customs with any people they were said to be related to in Anatolia.
Massimo Pallottino, the famed Etruscologist, has pointed out that whatever the origins of the Etruscan people, their civilization as we know it developed in Italy, and there I think he’s quite right.
Good point about the Etruscan vases with the Aeneas legend...it’s definitely a VERY old story in Italy.
Etruscan, on the other hand, was a non-Indo-European language, which had no surviving relatives in Asia Minor in the era of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, at least none that we know of. Its only close relative is the language which was spoken on Lemnos before the Greek conquest--how the Lemnian language was so similar to Etruscan is a difficult thing to explain for those who think Etruscan was indigenous to Italy. In Greek tradition the earlier inhabitants of Lemnos were "Pelasgians." Who the Pelasgians were is not clearly understood--there have been lots of theories, including that they were the same as the Philistines (who seem to have come from the Aegean before settling in historic Philistia).
Etruscan is not related to the other langauges of Italy. Usually when you have a situation like that (e.g. the case of Basque) it's because a language happened to survive in a mountainous or inaccessible area--but the Etruscan language is found in one of the most desirable areas of Italy, the kind of place an invading group might have conquered.
Italian scholars have tended to favor the theory that Etruscan was indigenous to Italy rather than brought in from the east.
Right. Etruscan may have a connection with Rhaetic in the Alps, but that’s not quite established, and the only sure connection is Lemnian, as you mention. I did a little amateur’s analysis on the Lemnian stele years ago, with Bonfante’s Etruscan grammar in hand.
There is really not that much difference at all between the two idioms...they look to me like two slightly different dialects. From what I could see, they didn’t look like languages that had been separated for thousands of years—which sort of puts a crimp in the idea that they represent a pre-Indo-European substrate. Impressionistically, I’d say that the separation between them looks to be only on the order of 500 years or so.
And your point about the languages retreating to the hills and inaccessible areas is certainly well-taken. That’s exactly what happened to Oscan, as the Samnites were deprived of the coasts by Greeks and later Romans.
If the Etruscan parent population had died out by the time of Dionysius, that would explain why he didn’t see any connection. I’m pretty sure Lemnos already lost their language several hundred years prior to his time.
Herodotus in 6.136-140 tells how Miltiades (later hero of the battle of Marathon) conquered Lemnos for Athens. His account implies that some of the Lemnians were forced to leave the island, but maybe not all of them.
Interesting! And whoever remained would have been progressively hellenized I guess.
Immigrants, huh? Are we going to see this term used everywhere now to try to desensitize us to it?
Can the migration patterns of civiliations from thousands of years ago fit today's definition of "immigrants?"
Seems like every year we find more examples of archeological proofs of Herodotus. He turns out to have been a pretty wise old historian.
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What amazes me is not that the ancient historians are consistently proved correct, but that the 20th century scientists, historians, etc. don’t believe the historians account, taking them for the liars that permeate our current culture. It seems that they cannot believe morals & ethics were paramount ‘back in the day’.