Sunday, February 18, 2007

Etruscans   posted by Razib @ 2/18/2007 12:30:00 AM

Over at my other blog I have three posts on Etruscans. Dienekes has been covering the topic closely as expected. The key here is that genetics seems to have answered the age old question of where the Etruscan people, one of the most important influences upon ancient Rome, came from. The Etruscans seem to have spoken a non-Indo-European language and emerged rather mysteriously during the early first millenium BCE to dominate the northwest coast of Italy (roughly, modern day Tuscany). Herodotus transmitted the legend that the Etruscans were originally from Lydia (roughly, western Anatolia), but the "Father of Lies" lacks a certain rock hard credibility. Understandably, contemporary scholars were skeptical of this exogenous origin, and the dominant tradition during the late 20th century among archeologists and historians was that folk movements were of minimal demographic impact. A less exciting, but more plausible, explanation seemed to be that the Etruscans were an indigenous cultural tradition influenced by the spread of Greek and Phoenician civilization to the western Mediterranean. But in this case, the sexy answer was the right one. I'm generally persuaded by Henry Harpending's contention that reading "neutral" markers has an aspect of tea leaf interpretation, but this is far more applicable to grand narratives which are global in scope. Genetics does not lend itself to answering all questions, in particular due to the genetic exchange between neighboring populations equilibrating allele frequencies over the generations, but in this case the long distance migration of a whole people in an alien genetic landscape left a discernable impact down to the modern day.

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