Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Etruscan Emigration?

Nicholas Wade of the NY Times brings us another fine effort in the DNA/archaeology beat that he works so well (please read his book Before the Dawn!) with a report of studies that indicate the classical Etruscan civilization of northern Italy originated with a group migration from the Near East. This seems to confirm a report by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus that has long been derided by archaeologists. I'm not sure why this should be so surprising in light of the extensive Greek colonies that were planted in Italy during this period.

The Etruscans have long been an enigma in classical archaeology. I've always been fascinated by their art. Wade reports that DNA from Etruscan burials, from modern Italian communities within the former Etruscan range, and from a distinctive breed of cattle from that area all point to Near Eastern origins.

This seeming confirmation of Herodotus reminded me of this post I did last Fall on the Antikythera Mechanism, a complex Greek clockwork "computer" dating to 100 BC, used to predict astronomical phenomena. The Roman writer/politician Cicero described having seen such a machine, but historians had always dismissed this as an exaggeration or a myth until this was finally found.

1 comment:

Neutrino said...

Part of the reason for thinking that the Etruscans were not from Asia Minor is their language. Etruscan doesn't appear to be an Indo-European language at all, so it's been assumed that the Etruscans were "native," relative to the Latins, and perhaps from somewhere else entirely.

Alas, perhaps a more enlightening view might be possible if the Emperor Claudius' Latin-Etruscan dictionary had survived to the present!

-R. Arthur Wilderson