Case closed, Etruscans are Lydian

By Razib Khan | February 15, 2007 11:09 am

etruscanagain.jpgYesterday I posted about the mtDNA results which suggest that Etruscans were Anatolian emigres to Italy. More data just <a href="came to light:

In the region corresponding to ancient Etruria (Tuscany, Central Italy), several Bos taurus breeds have been reared since historical times. These breeds have a strikingly high level of mtDNA variation, which is found neither in the rest of Italy nor in Europe. The Tuscan bovines are genetically closer to Near Eastern than to European gene pools and this Eastern genetic signature is paralleled in modern human populations from Tuscany, which are genetically close to Anatolian and Middle Eastern ones.

This mystery is over, so those few pages in the books on the Etruscans should be rewritten. Not only do the female ancestors look Near East genetically, so do the cattle in Tuscany! Additionally, ancient writers point to an Anatolian connection, this without the scholarly sophistication that we have at our disposal (i.e., they obviously weren’t engaging in deep philological or anthropological analysis, but transmitting folk memory).
Like via Dienekes.

  • John Emerson

    This is the kind of thing I’ve been hoping for from historical genetics. Hope it stands up — it looks good.

  • Antoni Jaume

    How well known is Lydian language? In as much I’m aware Estruscan is not understood.

  • razib

    not well. but please note that i’m using ‘lydian’ in an anachronistic fashion. anatolia, and lydia itself, was multi-ethnic & lingual when the etruscans left. their own ethnicity had disappeared in anatolia by the classical period. note for example that the ‘hittite empire’ was multi-lingual, with the hittite speakers being simply one amongst many groups, with the majority perhaps speaking the ‘hatti’ language.

  • dougjnn

    This is really quite wonderful.
    Inasmuch as the Etruscans have long been thought by many to have been a major influence upon the earliest Romans in their most formative years, this is likely to excite MAJOR increased interest in studying Etruscan and Lydian cultural forms (and maybe also genetic markers). Previously the great consensus was that they were another Italian tribe of perhaps somewhat unusual provenance but probably not from Asia Minor as some of their “myths” proclaimed. Above all there was much uncertainty about where they came from. So all was based on a speculative foundation.
    Now there’s likely to be renewed interest in how much this Western Asian tribe/group differed from those surrounding them and how much this influenced / was integral to the rising Romans.

  • David Boxenhorn

    Would the fact that they brought their cows indicate that they took a land route?

  • razib

    Would the fact that they brought their cows indicate that they took a land route?
    interesting point. i doubt it because that’s a long trek…but who knows? the consensus was really wrong here.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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