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Ancient Etruscans were immigrants from Anatolia, or what is now Turkey

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
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Contact: Mary Rice
mary@mrcommunication.org
European Society of Human Genetics
16-Jun-2007


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