New genetic study on ancient central Italy, from 800 BC to 1000 AD, featuring 86 new samples from Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abi7673
Dates and locations of samples:
Republic Era (800 BC to 1 BC)
Although the Etruscans spoke a non-Indo-European language, principal component and admixture analysis shows that they were genetically indistinguishable from the neighboring Indo-European Italics of the Roman Republic, including the city of Rome. Both populations clustered with modern Spaniards, rather than modern Italians.
The majority of Etruscan ancestry (~55%) was of Early European Farmer origin. However, they derived ~25% of their ancestry from early Western Steppe Herders, similar to the Yamnaya. This “steppe-related” (Indo-European) ancestry proportion increased to ~50% when modeling with a later steppe-derived population, such as the German Bell Beakers, who had increased Early European Farmer ancestry. 75% of Republic Era Central Italian men belonged to haplogroup R1b, specifically R1b-L2 and R1b-P312, which were of Bell Beaker and Corded Ware origin.
The above evidence disproves the theory that the Etruscans were of non-European origin. The authors reported that Etruscans “derived [their] entire ancestry from other European populations such as the earlier Bell Beaker group from northern Italy and Iron Age populations from southern Europe.”
During this period, the authors detected eight ethnic outliers that sat outside of the main Etruscan cluster:
- Four shifted towards North Africa (‘C.Italy_Etruscan.Afr’)
- Three towards Central Europe (‘C.Italy_Etruscan.Ceu’)
- One towards the Near East (‘C.Italy_Etruscan_MAS001’)
The North-African-shifted outliers, dated to 300 BC, could not be successfully modeled and, thus, their origin remains a mystery. The study theorizes that they may have been of Carthaginian (Punic/Phoenician) descent.
The Central European outliers, dated 650 to 300 BC, had 40% Yamnaya-like ancestry and were found to represent invasive populations migrating into Italy from the north.
The Near-East-shifted outlier, dated to 200 BC, was modeled as a mixture between Etruscan and Bronze Age Caucasus populations, such as Armenians.
Aside from the outlier with Caucasian ancestry, the authors did not find evidence of Iranian-related (or Caucasus-related) ancestry in Central Italy from before 1 AD. This ancestry was found in Bronze Age Sicily and Iron Age Sardinia.
Imperial Era (1 AD to 500 AD)
During the first half of the First Millennium AD, all populations of Central Italy were genetically shifted towards the Near East, clustering with modern Southern Italians and Greeks. Imperial Era Central Italians (‘C.Italy_Imperial’) were modeled as 41-62% Etruscan with 38-59% ancestry from the Levant or Anatolia.
The genetic impact of imperial immigrants was highest in Rome but did extend to Etruria and other neighboring regions. The PCA below shows that Rome was home to ethnic groups from all over the empire, including Northern Europe, Sardinia, Crete, Anatolia, and the Levant.
The authors note that “the strength of this shift might be influenced by the changing frequency of different burial practices–such as cremation and inhumation–among groups through time.” In other words, ethnic Italians cremating their dead may have artificially inflated the immigrant population in the archaeological record. Nevertheless, there was a significant influx of non-European ancestry into Italy during this period.
Surprisingly, the authors note that the Constitutio Antoniniana (212 AD), also known as the ‘Edict of Caracalla,’ likely facilitated this ethnic intermixing. The edict granted full Roman citizenship to all free men within Empire and gave all free women the same rights as Roman women. Before the Edict, only ethnic Italians (and a handful of important client state nobles) could hold full Roman citizenship. Emperor Caracalla was half Arab on his mother’s side and of Punic (North African Semitic but of Levantine origin) ancestry on his father’s side. A perfect example of the ‘Pūnica fidēs’ (Punic faith): Perfidious treachery and betrayal.
Post-Imperial Era (500 AD to 1000 AD)
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Central Italian gene pool shifted away from the Near East and towards Northern and Central Europe, now clustering with modern Central Italians.
Medieval Central Italians (‘C.Italy_Early.Medieval’) had 60-90% ‘C.Italy_Imperial’ ancestry, with the remaining 10-40% being of Northern European origin. This northern ancestry is likely derived from Germanic peoples, such as the Lombards (‘Piedmont_N.Longobard’), who were ethnically identical to modern Scandinavians.
The study concluded that the modern Central Italian population had formed by 1000 AD.
- Bell-Beaker-related ancestry had arrived in Central Italy by the Bronze Age.
- In addition to Italic peoples, Celtic ancestry dating from the Hallstatt and La Tène periods was also found in Etruria.
- The Proto-Italic language diverged into Latin, Umbrian, etc. during the Second Millennium BC.
- Etruscans continued to practice non-Indo-European culture/language despite being biologically near-identical to the surrounding Indo-Europeans.
- The origin of Etruscan and other Paleo-European Tyrsenian languages (Lemnian, Rhaetic) remains a mystery. However, a lack of Iran/Caucasus ancestry in Etruscans rules out a possibility of a Near Eastern origin.
- Tyrsenian languages were probably of Early European Farmer origin.
- Etruscan culture/language was maintained even after their assimilation into the Roman Republic.
- The demographics of Italy were destroyed by an immigrant emperor who granted full Roman citizenship to every ethnicity within the Empire. Full Roman citizenship was previously limited to ethnic Italians and a minority of important client state nobles.
- Germanic invaders contributed 10-40% ancestry to Medieval Central Italians, resulting in the population of modern-day Central Italy, which had formed by 1000 AD.
Admixture analysis and PCA featuring all of the important samples: