Scheduled for 24th Sep 2010 at the Sanger Institute:
Origins and evolution of the Etruscans’ DNA
Speaker: Dr Guido Barbujani
Affiliation: University di Ferrara, Italy
Date: 24th Sep 2010 Time: 00:00:00
Host: Chris Tyler-Smith
The Etruscan culture is documented in Etruria, Central Italy from the 7th to the 1st century BC. For more than 2,000 years there has been disagreement on the Etruscans’ biological origins, whether local or in Anatolia. Genetic affinities with modern Tuscan and Anatolian populations have been reported, but so far all attempts to fit the Etruscans’ and modern mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) in the same genealogy have failed. In this study we considered that most populations are internally structured, and we analysed both Tuscany and Anatolia in finer geographical detail, comparing ancient and modern mtDNA data with the results of millions of computer simulations under various genealogical and demographic models. Using methods of Approximate Bayesian Computation, we show that people of coastal Anatolia, the area where ancient historians placed the Etruscans’ putative roots, are descended from ancestors who were genetically very similar to the Etruscans. In turn, the Etruscans can be considered ancestral, with a high degree of confidence, to the inhabitants of one Tuscan valley, Casentino, but not to other communities dwelling in the former Etruscan homeland. Our results demonstrate that the Etruscans’ DNA sequences are still present, but only in very specific sections of the Tuscan territory. They also support the existence of genetic links between Etruria and the Eastern Mediterranean shores, but place the relevant contact >10,000 years ago, strongly suggesting that the Etruscan culture developed locally without significant recent contribution of immigrants from Anatolia.