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

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


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