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Some very interesting new research is reported over at Rogue Classicism today.

The origins of Etruscan culture have long been debated - was it imported into Italy by immigrants from Lydia (in modern Turkey), as Herodotus claims; was it imported by immigrants from somewhere else; or did it just develop out of the existing indigenous Villanovan culture?

Well, now some people from the Università di Pavia in Italy have applied DNA evidence to the problem. It seems that in the small town of Murlo, at least, an unusually high proportion of the population (17.5%) have 'Near Eastern mtDNA haplogroups' - which apparently points towards 'a direct and rather recent genetic input from the Near East'.

It's still a bit of a leap from there to saying that Herodotus was correct, and the immigrants came specifically from Lydia, as the authors of the report seem to do (though I've only seen the abstract, so don't know exactly how strongly they're pushing the case for that link). But still, this is much more persuasive that any of the existing evidence, and quite the opposite of what I'd been expecting. Previously, I fell largely into the established 'evolvement from Villanovan culture' camp - although I'll admit that that's partly because of personal emotional prejudices in favour of Italy as a cradle of civilisation in its own right, and a more rationally based general dislike of overly-simplified models of 'civilisation' spreading in linear fashion from culture A to culture B. And of course, the new evidence doesn't in the least rule out the involvement of the Villanovans in the creation of a new culture based on ideas imported by a small number of immigrant easterners.

In any case, I'm surprised. And, of course, rather excited and eager to hear more. I'll look forward to seeing how this 'settles in' with the existing scholarship over the next few years.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
Of course, this means, when I teach Greece and Rome next fall, that I will have to talk about this, and it will be "not" what the book says, and I will have a "teaching moment" where I can talk about how our understanding of history really is constantly changing ...
Feb. 10th, 2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
Indeed! I only wish I had a course where I could make use of it in the same way, but I don't really. Still, there's plenty of other stuff I can (and regularly do) use in the same way in the courses I am teaching.
Feb. 10th, 2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
Feb. 10th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
Aye, it's all about the DNA lately! The other related story is about Pakistani communities and their descent from Greek soldiers. Fascinating stuff.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
Am currently looking into origin of Etruscans - v. interested in the DNA research - where can I obtain a copy of the report?
Feb. 22nd, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Etruscans
I'm sorry, but I can't really help with this beyond what I've already done in the post above. This link (given above) takes you to the article's abstract. From there, you can see that it is published in The American Journal of Human Genetics. To see the full article, you need an online subscription to the journal, or access to a library which takes it in hard copy.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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