Where were the Etruscans from?

The origins of the Etruscans, whose civilisation flourished 3,000 years ago – c.1200 BC to c.100 BC – in Etruria (modern Tuscany), have long been subject to debate among archaeologists, linguists and historians. There are three main theories: Herodotus, the Greek historian, believed that they came from Anatolia (southern Turkey); others believe they came from northern Europe; while the third theory is that they were an indigenous to the region and descendants of the Iron Age Villanovan people.

According to an article I came across today, the Etruscan most likely were settlers from Anatolia (southern Turkey). This conclusion is based on genetic evidence collected and analysed by researchers at the University of Turin who compared samples of DNA from males in Tuscany, others parts of Italy, Greece, parts of the Balkans. The Tuscan DNA was found to be closest to DNA from Turkey and the Greek island of Lemnos, where an inscription in a language with many similarities to Etruscan was found in 1885.

So it looks like Herodotus, was right. He believed that due to a long-running famine, half of the population of Etruscans in Lydia (on the south coast of Turkey) were sent by their king to seek a better live elsewhere, and that they settled in the region that became known as Etruria in Italy.

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This entry was posted in Language.

10 Responses to Where were the Etruscans from?

  1. Travis says:

    Simon,

    I clicked on your hyperlink to the article about the Etruscans, but I was taken to a page that asks for a log in password. What you put on the post was really interesting. I keep hearing about history being verified through molecules. It’s amazing how much fact comes to light with DNA tracking.

    By the way, your entries on the Welsh study trip gave a good sense of your stay there, particularly because it was a bilingual account. Welcome back.

  2. Tadhg says:

    Frankly, Simon, I’m far more interested in the nature of the Etruscan language itself than any conflations of language and culture with ethnic affinities – something rarely borne out by DNA studies. Have you seen this fascinating article, that posits the notion that Etruscan appears to be an isolate only because it is in fact a cryptolect? Have a look: http://www.geocities.com/hbry/
    Roeddwn i’n mywnhau darllen am dy anturiau yng Nghymru, by the way!

  3. TJ says:

    Well well in that case, would their language be a relative to turkic languages?
    or maybe more as a relative to greek?

    Hope that finding helps on cracking their language!

  4. Simon says:

    Travis – the link to the article goes to the right place now.

    TJ – maybe Etruscan was related to languages like Lydian, which were part of the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages. The article doesn’t discuss this at all.

  5. rek says:

    Simon – Are the forums closed to new members? I can’t figure out how to join.

  6. AR says:

    I was prompted to look up more about their language. Their language is part of an isolate language family but there are several hypotheses connecting it to the Indo-European family and the Finno-Urgic family among others.

  7. TJ says:

    I don’t know but .. Finno-Urgic sounds a bit far isn’t it?

    Simon: by the way … wasn’t the old name of Albania … Lydia or something similar?

  8. Simon says:

    TJ – the old for Albania was Illyria.

  9. TJ says:

    Oh thanks! :)
    mixing names as usual! …. my Ayvarith is affecting me severely I guess! :)

  10. Marco Italy says:

    History repeats, doesn’t it?