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Research Article

Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA

  • Silvia Ghirotto,

    Affiliation: Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

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  • Francesca Tassi,

    Affiliation: Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

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  • Erica Fumagalli,

    Affiliations: Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy, Department of Biotechnologies and Biosciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy

    Current address: Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

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  • Vincenza Colonna,

    Affiliations: Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy, Institute of Genetics e Biophysics “Adriano Buzzati-Traverso”, National Research Council, Naples, Italy

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  • Anna Sandionigi,

    Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

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  • Martina Lari,

    Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

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  • Stefania Vai,

    Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

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  • Emmanuele Petiti,

    Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

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  • Giorgio Corti,

    Affiliation: Institute for Biomedical Technologies, National Research Council, Segrate, Milan, Italy

    Current address: Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, Candiolo (Turin), Italy

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  • Ermanno Rizzi,

    Affiliation: Institute for Biomedical Technologies, National Research Council, Segrate, Milan, Italy

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  • Gianluca De Bellis,

    Affiliation: Institute for Biomedical Technologies, National Research Council, Segrate, Milan, Italy

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  • David Caramelli,

    Affiliation: Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

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  • Guido Barbujani mail

    g.barbujani@unife.it

    Affiliation: Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

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  • Published: February 06, 2013
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055519

Reader Comments (3)

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False Premise for Anatolian Common Ancestor

Posted by Classarch1 on 18 Feb 2013 at 05:10 GMT

As an archaeologist I enjoyed reading your study on whether there is a genetic connection between modern Tuscan populations and Ancient Etruscans and your attempt to determine whether there is a connection with ancient western Anatolia. The issue which arises is your latter comparison between Ancient Etruscans and western Anatolia. The problem is that your are getting your sample from the modern population of Western Anatolia and other locals throughout. The modern population, the Turks, are not originally from the area and only arrived in western Anatolia in the first quarter of the fifteenth-century C.E. with the final defeat of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines). Overall the various Turkish groups didn't even start entering and settling into eastern Anatolia until the eleventh-century.

The populations they displaced in the west were primarily Greek and the descendants of the Lydians who were mixed with Ionian Greeks as early as the 8th century B.C.E. This mixing continued through the Byzantine period where the descendants of the Lydians continued to mix and became Orthodox Christians. This Greek and the mixed Greco-Lydian populations were driven out of western Anatolia in the early 1920's.

If you are going to test whether or not the Etruscans were autochthonous to Etruria or originally from western Anatolia as historically claimed by Herodotus and Livy state then you must have a basic understanding of the history and archaeology for the area you draw your samples from.

If you did understand it you would have known that the present population living in the former Lydian lands of western Anatolia have minimal, if any, admixture with the original populations, thus making your premise for your comparison false.


No competing interests declared.

RE: False Premise for Anatolian Common Ancestor

GuidoBarbujani replied to Classarch1 on 18 Feb 2013 at 13:05 GMT


We are aware that Anatolia, as well as any other region of the world, has had a complex population history. However, non-biological evidence does not allow one to estimate the demographic impact of the processes documented in the archaeological and historical record, some of which you list. Genetic evidence suggests about 30% Central Asian admixture for both mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA in the Anatolian population (Di Benedetto et al. 2001). We are not aware of any later study modifying this figure, which is compatible both with immigration accompanying the arrival of the Turkmen armies, and with continuous gene flow from Asia at a rate of 1% for 40 generations, but not (as you claim) with a radical population replacement. Consistent with this, if certainly not a proof, is the finding that the separation between modern Tuscans and Anatolians can be placed around 6 or 7000 years ago (Ghirotto et al. 2013 PLoS ONE), which is the time expected between most populations of the Mediterranean area, certainly not between Europeans and a Central Asian population.

Di Benedetto G., Ergüven A., Stenico M., Castrì L., Bertorelle G., Togan I. and Barbujani G. (2001) DNA diversity and population admixture in Anatolia. “American Journal of Physical Anthropology” “”124:””144–156.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: False Premise for Anatolian Common Ancestor

Onur replied to GuidoBarbujani on 19 Nov 2013 at 21:31 GMT

Since the publication of your study (Di Benedetto et al. 2001) there have been many academic studies that tried to quantify the genetic impact of the incoming Central Asian Turkic groups on Anatolian Turks. To my knowledge all of them arrived at significanly lower figures (15% at most) for the genetic impact than your 30% figure. Here you can find a nice summary of the academic studies dealing with this issue, including links to them:

http://www.khazaria.com/g...

There are also studies of genome blogger Dienekes Pontikos on this issue, such as this one (his figure is a little below 15%, but he thinks that the real figure may be lower than that given the recent Caucasoid admixture in many Central Asian Turkic groups):

http://dienekes.blogspot....

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: RE: False Premise for Anatolian Common Ancestor

GuidoBarbujani replied to Onur on 22 Nov 2013 at 10:13 GMT

Many thanks for this comment and for the references. Any figure lower than 30% reinforces our conclusions, because it reduces the likely (and currently immeasurable) difference between the ancient Anatolian population (about which there is no genetic information available) and the modern population we used for comparison.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: RE: RE: False Premise for Anatolian Common Ancestor

Onur replied to GuidoBarbujani on 22 Nov 2013 at 12:57 GMT

Thanks for your reply, professor. Have you had the time to look at the studies included at the linked web pages? What are your thoughts on the results and conclusions of those studies, especially in light of your own study (Di Benedetto et al. 2001)?

No competing interests declared.