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On The Origin Of The Etruscan Civilisation


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On the origin of the Etruscan civilisation


00:01 14 February 2007 NewScientist.com news service


Michael Day


Enlarge image Etruscan cippus (grave marker) in the shape of a warrior head. Found in Orvieto, Italy Enlarge image Etruscan fresco, found in Orvieto, ItalyOne of anthropology's most enduring mysteries - the origins of the ancient Etruscan civilisation - may finally have been solved, with a study of cattle.


This culturally distinct and technologically advanced civilisation inhabited central Italy from about the 8th century BC, until it was assimilated into Roman culture around the end of the 4th century BC.


The origins of the Etruscans, with their own non-Indo-European language, have been debated by archaeologists, geneticists and linguists for centuries. Writing in the 5th century BC, the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans had arrived in Italy from Lydia, now called Anatolia in modern-day Turkey.


To try and discover more about the Etruscans' movements, Marco Pellecchia at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Piacenza, Italy, and colleagues have analysed mitochondrial DNA in modern herds of Bos Taurus cattle in the north, south and central regions of Italy. This genetic material is passed down the female line from mother to offspring.


Genetic revelations The team found that almost 60% of the mitochondrial DNA in cows in the central Tuscan region of the country - where the Etruscan civilisation is thought to have arisen - was the same as that in cows from Anatolia and the Middle East. There was little or no genetic convergence between cows from the north and south of Italy and those from Turkey and the Middle East, the researchers say.


Pellecchia notes that no archaeological or genetic traces of Etruscan culture have been found elsewhere between Turkey and Italy. This, combined with the Etruscans' famed nautical prowess leads Pellecchia to conclude that the Etruscans and their cattle arrived in Italy by sea, and not by land.


Mark Thomas, a human geneticist at University College London in the UK, says that European cattle tend to be genetically very similar, so the study's conclusion is plausible.


Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.0258)


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20 March 2006 Chatty farmers scattered the seeds of language http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18024232.600

29 November 2003 Weblinks Catholic University of the Sacred Heart http://www.unicatt.it/ucsc_EV.asp Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/proceedingsb


Printed on Fri Feb 16 08:09:59 GMT 2007


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I'm not so sure that I understand the significance of this article. :shrug:

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I'm not so sure that I understand the significance of this article. :shrug:

Well, we could shoehorn it in with this:

It may have been the fact that Etruscan religious beliefs and practices were so deep-rooted among the Romans that led to the complete destruction of all Etruscan literature as a result of the advent of Christianity. Arnobius, one of the first Christian apologists, living around 300CE, wrote ,"Etruria is the originator and mother of all superstition"

From The Mysterious Etruscans


But I found the article interesting because firstly the Etruscans are WAY COOL. Whenever you read that they were in Italy before the rise of the Romans, and were assimilated into the Roman Empire, you kind of think that they were some primitives taht were just hanging around. But when you see their sculpture you realise how advanced they were.



Plus, the DNA invetigation of cattle is a cunning bit of thinking outside the box

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It shows that modern techniques can help to solve some of these age old questions. Since there's no sign of these cattle (or their DNA) on the land anywhere between these areas it means they must have arrived by ship instead of a land migration.


This also means that Herodotus also gets a little gold star next to his name since this is his account. From what little I know of him he is not the most reliable historian (he wrote in a variation of the then common historical narrative style we'd know from the gospels) so this means he didn't simply make it all up. Perhaps there are more "gems" in his writing waiting to be uncovered?



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I'm not so sure that I understand the significance of this article. :shrug:


It's dealing with a potential discovery about the archeology of an ancient civilization, and therefore awesome.



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