September 24 (WNN) — Before the Roman Empire, the Italian peninsula was dominated for several centuries by a more sophisticated confederation, the Etruscans.
After centuries of debate, new genomic analysis has provided new insights into the origins of this mysterious Italic civilization.
The Etruscan civilization rose to prominence in central Italy during the Iron Age, forging links with other Mediterranean powers and leaving behind a mysterious archaeological legacy.
Their art and social structure, their pre-Indo-European language and their impressive metallurgical skills set the Etruscans apart from their neighbors.
Ever since the last of the Etruscan cities were absorbed into the Roman Empire during the first century BC, historians, ancient and modern, have argued about who exactly the Etruscans were and where they came from.
Now, new genomic data – detailed Friday in the journal Science Advances – suggests that the Etruscans, despite their cultural peculiarities, were more like their Italic neighbors than previously thought.
The early Etruscan history, including accounts written by the Greek writer and historian Herodotus, noted the strong influence of ancient Greek culture on the art and cultural traditions of the Etruscans.
Herodotus and other historians argued that the Etruscan culture was founded by immigrants from Anatolian or Aegean peoples. Another Greek historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, argued that the Etruscans emerged locally, evolving from the Bronze Age Villanovan culture.
Most modern archaeologists favor Dionysius, but until now, researchers did not have genetic data to support the theory of an autochthonous origin.
For the new study, scientists analyzed DNA extracted from remains excavated at 12 archaeological sites. The genetic data italicized spanning 2,000 years of history. Genomic analysis has shown that the genetic profile of the Etruscans is very similar to that of Latins living in neighboring Rome.
The researchers also identified genetic links between the Etruscans and steppe-related lineage-groups that arrived in central Italy during the Early Bronze Age.
Although these Steppe-related migrants probably brought Indo-European languages to the region – ancestral languages spoken by billions of people around the world – the pre-Indo-European language of the Etruscans persisted through the Iron Age.
“This linguistic persistence, combined with genetic turnover, challenges simple assumptions that genes are similar languages and suggests a more complex scenario that may involve the assimilation of early Italic speakers by the Etruscan speech community, possibly over another.” Millennium BC during a long period of mixing,” Professor David Carmeli of the University of Florence said in a press release.
The researchers determined that the Etruscans’ gene pool was fairly stable for eight centuries, despite this, from the Iron Age to the Roman Republic period. However, during the Roman Imperial period, relocated slaves and soldiers captured by the expanding Roman Empire began to mix with the Italic population, altering the region’s gene pool.
Co-author Johannes Krauss, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said: “This genetic variation clearly reflects the role of the Roman Empire in the large-scale displacement of people in times of upward or downward socioeconomic and geographic mobility. ” .
After the fall of the Roman Empire, genetic data suggest an increasing influence of European groups, particularly German immigrants, on the region’s genome. However, the researchers found that the genetic makeup of central and southern Italy has remained largely constant over the past 1,000 years.