Etruscans - follow up

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJun 18, 2007 7:20 AM


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Update: On my other blog I have a post up addressing skeptics in the archaeological community. A few months ago I posted several times about the Etruscans, the ancient non-Indo-European people of north-central Italy whose provenance has always been a matter of debate. To make it short, genetic data suggests that the ancient Etruscans and some inhabitants of modern Tuscany share a relatively close ancestry with the peoples of the near east, in particular, Turkey. Additionally, an independent line of data from cattle suggests a congruent phylogenetic relationship between the herds of Tuscany and Turkey. The research has now been presented at a European genetics conference, and Science Daily and The Guardian have serviceable summaries up. Now, here is an interesting point though: though bringing a "high culture" (relative to the local traditions) the Etruscan genetic impact seems to be relatively light. Rather, their influence is felt through the role that Etruscans played in the genesis of Republican Rome. Their activities as traders with links to the eastern Mediterranean served to facilitate the spread of cultural forms from the Greek world, both in the east and in Magna Graecia in southern Italy & Sicily, to their client peoples, such as the Latins. I've talked quite a bit about introgression on this weblog, the jumping of a favored allele from one population to another and possible replacement in the target group of the original ancestral variant without excessive average genomic transformation (that is, only at one locus was the evolutionary effect powerful). In the case of the Etruscans we see a similar dynamic in regards to culture, these people served as critical information vectors in particular specific cases without transforming the whole of Italian culture (e.g., the Indo-European languages of Italy were not replaced by the Etruscan tongue). Related:John Wilkins has more.

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