Thursday, March 08, 2007

Etruscans - the consensus?   posted by Razib @ 3/08/2007 06:13:00 PM

As some of you know I've lately posted on the genetic evidence which implies a non-trivial Near Eastern, in particular Anatolian, element in the Etruscan population of the ancient world. This is of interest because there has been controversy from the time of Herodotus about the origin of this enigmatic people (who influenced Rome). Roughly, there was a camp which held that the Etruscans were a settler population, perhaps from Lydia, while another group held that they were indigenous. The genetic data seems strongly to suggest that there was a non-trivial exogenous input, exactly from the region of the world where ancient oral history suggests they emigrated. In response to my spate of posts one individual left an irate and angry comment, suggesting that for several decades everyone has known that the Etruscans were from Anatolia, and sarcastically offered that the only issue is that one must have the approval of a "real science" like genetics. I deleted the comment due to its rude and insulting tone. But, I'm not a specialist in Etruscan studies, so I didn't totally dismiss it. I have read a bit about Rome though, and the consensus seemed to be that the Etruscans were indigenous. Today I was at the library and checked out The Etruscans (1998) by Graeme Barker and Tom Rasmussen. Here is what I found.

Page 44:

Virtually all archaeologists now agree that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the 'indigenous' theory of Etruscan origins....

Page 83:

...The overwhelming evidence of the archaeological record is that the origins of Etruscan society lie fundamentally in the later prehistoric communities of Etruria....

One book is not definitive, but, it is in keeping with the general bias of late 20th century archaeologist, and, what I have read in the historical literature. Myself, I assumed that the indigenous theory was of a higher likelihood until the recent data, and certainly the Etruscans were a hybrid peoples, genetically and culturally, even assuming an exogenous element (though the exogenous female lineages imply a folk wandering of some scale). But in any case, I do have to wonder about the abusive commenter. Either they were stupid, of they were lying. Or, Barker and Rasmussen don't report the consensus accurately. I'll probably look at a few other books just to make sure, but I can't communicate how enraged I get at righteous commenters that either lie or don't know they're talking about. It wastes everyone's time.

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