The Italian Almanac


Italian News - May 19

The Tuscans' proud claim to be the descendants of the ancient Etruscans has taken a knock. A DNA comparison of Etruscan skeletons and a sample of living Tuscans has thrown up only "tenuous genetic similarities", said lead researcher Guido Barbujani of Ferrara University.

"If the Tuscans were the direct descendants of the Etruscans the DNA should be the same," said Barbujani, a genetecist who coordinated the study with Stanford University in the United States. The study, which appears in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that most modern Tuscans are descended from a non-Etruscan people.

The Etruscans are believed to have formed the first advanced civilisation in Italy, based in an area called Etruria, corresponding mainly to present-day Tuscany and northern Lazio. At the height of their power at around 500 BC - when Rome itself was subjugated - they spread to the foothills of the Alps and southward close to Naples.

Modern knowledge of their civilisation is based largely on archaeological finds, as much of their language has yet to be deciphered.