4.04.2007

DNA Paints Italy's Etruscans as Middle Eastern Migrants

Geneticists have added an edge to a 2,500-year-old debate over the origin of the Etruscans, a people whose brilliant and mysterious civilization dominated northwestern Italy for centuries until the rise of the Roman republic in 510 B.C.

Several new findings support a view...that the Etruscans originally migrated to Italy from the Near East.

One study is based on the mitochondrial DNA of residents of Murlo, a small former Etruscan town in an out-of-the-way place whose population may not have changed all that much since Etruscan times.

The Murlo residents’ lineages are quite different from those of people in other Italian towns. When placed on a chart of mitochondrial lineages from Europe and the Near East, the people of Murlo map closest to Palestinians and Syrians, a team led by Dr. Torroni and Alessandro Achilli reports in the April issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics.

In Tuscany as a whole, part of the ancient Etruscan region of Etruria, the Torroni team found 11 minor mitochondrial DNA lineages that occur nowhere else in Europe and are shared only with Near Eastern people. These findings, the teams says, “support a direct and rather recent genetic input from the Near East, a scenario in agreement with the Lydian origin of the Etruscans.”

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Also, read Illegal Roman Immigrants May be Chinese Today.