Etruscan genetics, a few nails in the coffin….

By Razib Khan | December 3, 2008 11:47 am

The Etruscan timeline: a recent Anatolian connection:

The origin of the Etruscans (the present day Tuscany, Italy), one of the most enigmatic non-Indo-European civilizations, is under intense controversy. We found novel genetic evidences on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) establishing a genetic link between Anatolia and the ancient Etruria. By way of complete mtDNA genome sequencing of a novel autochthonous Tuscan branch of haplogroup U7 (namely U7a2a), we have estimated an historical time frame for the arrival of Anatolian lineages to Tuscany ranging from 1.1 +/- 0.1 to 2.3 +/- 0.1 0.4 kya B.P.

Related: Posts on Etruscans & genetics.


Comments (9)

  1. Russell

    Maybe I’m just ignorant when it comes to reading dates, or I miss what is being claimed. But between 2,350 and 1,150 years ago (BP 0 being 1950) defines a time frame that starts after Rome conquered Italy, until somewhere in the middle ages. The Etruscans had their day before Rome. Is that maybe supposed to be BCE rather than BP? Or do I just need another cup of joe?

  2. you’re right. from what i recall most of these methods tend to *underestimate* coalescence, but i’m working off memory. time is less important than further confirmation of the relationship to me.

  3. toto

    than further confirmation of the relationship to me.
    If the dates and Russell’s comment are correct, then this Anatolian wave has basically zilch to do with Etrurians, who had their entire history behind them at that time.
    I suspect that we must be missing something. I can’t access the paper so I can’t really comment further 🙁

  4. pconroy

    But after the fall of Constantinople (aka Istanbul), a great many Byzantines settled in Northern Italy – their descendants would be exactly where Etruscans supposedly settled, Northern Italy and surrounding areas?!
    They especially settled in Florence, and helped foster the Renaissance
    After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Renaissance gained a further impetus because of a number of Greek humanists who moved from Byzantium to Italy. In 1462 the Platonic Academy was opened in Florence under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici.

  5. Gav

    6th century Byzantine campaigns in Italy anyone?
    Agree it’s hard to see what the findings may have to do with the old Etruscans.

  6. you guys need to remember that ancient DNA extraction from etruscan remains serves as an independent check. (obviously some of you don’t know about this particular fact) the point about the byzantine invasions is irrelevant; i just recently read a confirmation that they were generally mercenaries from all across the world, with a 6th century bias toward germans.

  7. gcochran

    Greek humanists escaping Constantinople are hardly going to explain a lot of old Anatolian mtDNA and Y-chromosome lineages in backwoods towns of Tuscany. I doubt if a single scholarly refugee ever entered one of those towns, not that there ever very many such refugees in the first place. Sheesh, Byzantium wasn’t even very big (~50k) when it fell in 1453: if every single inhabitant had moved to Italy, we’d have a hard time finding a trace with a sample of reasonable size.
    And of course those Byzantine mercenary armies – Gepids and Heruls as much as anything – weren’t very big either. Belisarius had less than 10k men.

  8. pconroy

    Undoubtedly the Etruscans were of Anatolian descent, I’m not disputing that, and small rural towns like Murlo still show there genetic traces.
    The Etruscans seem to have arrived to Tuscany prior to the proto-Villanova culture, or before 3,100 to 2,900 B.P. This specific mtDNA haplogroup U7a2a seems to have evolved in a more recent time frame, 2,300 to 1,100 B.P., coinciding with the Roman, post-Roman and Early Middle Ages periods, or 600 to 1,800 years after the arrival of the Etruscans.
    So while it might have involved evolution in situ from the original Etruscan population, who carried mtDNA U7, it might also be the result of a later Anatolian infusion, that’s all.

  9. pconroy

    Of course it would be informative to know where exactly U7a2a was recovered – in a small rural town like Murlo, or in a cosmopolitan city like Florence…


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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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