Before the glory of Rome, the Etruscans ruled much of what is now Italy. Some from Rome first kings came Etruria, and the Etruscans may have founded the city-state that would dominate much of the known world for centuries.
With a unique setting and still widely unknown language, this early civilization was significantly different from other Iron Age societies, benefiting from a sophisticated knowledge of agriculture, metalworking, and sculpture that strongly influenced ancient Greek and Roman culture.
“[T]the first known superpower of the western Mediterranean â, in the words of Live Science‘s Ben Turner, the Etruscans prospered for centuries, only to be conquered by the Romans in the third century BCE and fully assimilated into the Roman Republic in 90 BCE.
For generations, researchers have wondered who the Etruscans were and where they came from. From the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the enigmatic people first lived in a distant land before migrating to the Italian peninsula.
Now reports Ariel David for Haaretz, an extensive genetic investigation confirmed the origins of the Etruscans, suggesting they were local and proving Herodotus to be wrong. The new DNA analysis, which focuses on 82 individuals who lived between 800 BCE and 1000 AD, shows that these ancient peoples shared many of the same genes as their Roman neighbors. The researchers collected genetic samples from skeletons found in the ancient region of Etruria, which covered Tuscany in northern Italy and the central part of the peninsula, as well as the island of Corsica.
As the study authors write in the journal Scientists progress, “[T]the local gene pool [was] largely maintained during the first millennium BCE âThis discovery changed dramatically during the time of the Roman Empire, when imperial expansion triggered the incorporation of populations across the Mediterranean.
“This enormous genetic change during the imperial era transforms the Italians from a people firmly anchored in the genetic cloud of Europe into a genetic bridge between the Mediterranean and the Near East”, lead author Cosimo Posth, geneticist at the University of TÃ¼bingen in Germany, tells Haaretz.
Previous archaeological and genetic research has indicated that Italy was originally colonized around 8,000 years ago by people migrating from Stone Age Europe and later the Eurasian Steppes and Anatolia. .
âThe Etruscans seem indistinguishable from the Latins, and they also carry a high proportion of Steppe ancestry,â Posth told Andrew Curry. Science magazine.
The language of civilization, still largely indecipherable, is appreciably different from other societies of this time, but presents points in common with Greek, in particular similar alphabets; indeed, Herodotus once speculated that the Etruscans were in fact ancient Greeks of Anatolia.
According to Michelle Starr of Scientific alert, the new study suggests that the Etruscans were successful in resisting absorption by subsequent migrations of the Indo-European peoples and retaining their unique language, at least for some time.
“Usually, when Indo-European comes along, it supplants the languages ââthat were there before”, co-author of the study Guus Kroonen, a linguist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, tells Science. âSo why do the Etruscans speak a non-Indo-European language? “
The fact that the Etruscans were able to retain their language despite subsequent waves of migration is a testament to the strength of their culture. The study suggests that ancient society passed on linguistic characteristics to other civilizations that later emerged in the Italian peninsula.
“This linguistic persistence, combined with genetic renewal, challenges simple assumptions that genes are equal to languages,” says the study co-author. David Caramelli, anthropologist at the University of Florence in Italy, in a declaration.
He adds that this “suggests a more complex scenario which may have involved the assimilation of the early Italic speakers by the Etruscan speech community, possibly during an extended period of intermixture during the second millennium BCE”
Although the language lasted for centuries after the collapse of its society, Etruria was eventually absorbed by Rome. Later, the Etruscan language and culture also disappeared. Then the researchers plan to find out why civilization lasted so long and how it ultimately ended.