04 giugno 2012

Just ask an indian

12 marzo 2012

Before the Romans developed their long-lasting rule on the Italian peninsula, several other groups of people organized towns and farms into small-scale societies. Yet even the most notable and longest lasting of these pre-Roman societies, known as the Etruscans, remains somewhat of a mystery to historians. This is what we know: sometime before 1000 B.C.E. people began to move to the central part of present-day Italy from areas north and east; around 800 B.C.E. more people arrived in the area from Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. These people, known now as Etruscans, brought with them traditions and costumes from ancient Greek, Mesopotamian (centered in present-day Turkey), and Asian cultures, and they developed a thriving culture of their own. Modeled on the Greek system of loosely linked city-states, the Etruscan culture thrived for several hundred years. Beginning in about 400 B.C.E. , however, they came under frequent attack from territories to the north and south. They were brought under Roman rule in 250 B.C.E. , and by 80 B.C.E. their culture had been virtually destroyed.
Historians have long thought of the Etruscans as mysterious because they left so few written records. We don't know how they built their society or why it fell apart. We don't know much about the ways that they lived and especially about how the poorer people lived. But we do know quite a bit about the way they dressed, wore their hair, and ornamented themselves. The evidence that survived concerning the Etruscans—paintings, sculpture, and pottery, most of it recovered from burial tombs of the wealthy—indicates that the Etruscans had well-developed costume traditions that combined influences from Greece and Asia. Their costumes had a great influence on the Romans who came to dominate Italy, and the rest of the region, in later years.
Wealthier Etruscans dressed very well indeed. Their clothes were made of fine wool, cotton, and linen, they were often very colorful, and they were based on Greek models. Women, for example, typically wore a gown called a chiton under a shawl called a himation. Both of these garments would have been dyed in bright colors, and evidence indicates that Etruscan women loved to wear elaborately patterned garments. Men wore a loin skirt that covered their genitals and often wore a Greek-style tunic. The lacerna, a short woolen cloak, was also very common. By the middle of the sixth century B.C.E. a distinctive garment called a tebenna became the most common male garment. Similar to the Greek chlamys, the tebenna was a long cloak that was draped over the left shoulder and then wrapped around the torso under the right arm. It was often decorated with clavi, stripes of color that indicated the wearer's status or rank in society. The tebenna is thought to be the model for the Roman toga, and Romans also adopted the use of clavi.
One of the highlights of Etruscan costume was its striking jewelry. The Etruscans developed a gold-working technique known as granulation, which involved soldering tiny grains of gold on a smooth background to create a glittering effect. Etruscans wore bracelets, necklaces, earrings, clasps and pins, and other types of jewelry. They also wore makeup and complicated, braided hairstyles. Early Etruscan men wore beards, though later a clean-shaven face became the norm.
Many of the costume traditions of the Etruscans were lost to history, but many others lived on in the traditions of the Romans.


Bonfante, Larissa. Etruscan Dress. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.
Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.
The Mysterious Etruscans. http://www.mysteriousetruscans.com/index.html (accessed on July 24, 2003).

Read more: Etruscan Dress - Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/fashion_costume_culture/The-Ancient-World-Rome/Etruscan-Dress.html#ixzz1ou62dWIN


09 marzo 2012

Yesterday I posted about the mtDNA results which suggest that Etruscans were Anatolian emigres to Italy. More data just In the region corresponding to ancient Etruria (Tuscany, Central Italy), several Bos taurus breeds have been reared since historical times. These breeds have a strikingly high level of mtDNA variation, which is found neither in the rest of Italy nor in Europe. The Tuscan bovines are genetically closer to Near Eastern than to European gene pools and this Eastern genetic signature is paralleled in modern human populations from Tuscany, which are genetically close to Anatolian and Middle Eastern ones.

This mystery is over, so those few pages in the books on the Etruscans should be rewritten. Not only do the female ancestors look Near East genetically, so do the cattle in Tuscany! Additionally, ancient writers point to an Anatolian connection, this without the scholarly sophistication that we have at our disposal (i.e., they obviously weren’t engaging in deep philological or anthropological analysis, but transmitting folk memory).

Like via Dienekes.

Etruscan historical genetics done right

Most of you know that I believe there are serious problems with much of contemporary historical population genetics. Grand unfounded narratives, and scientists who lack requisite historical knowledge, litter the field. But, narrow, precise and crystal clear studies do emerge now and then. This is a case in point, Mitochondrial DNA Variation of Modern Tuscans Supports the Near Eastern Origin of Etruscans:

Interpopulation comparisons reveal that the modern population of Murlo, a small town of Etruscan origin, is characterized by an unusually high frequency (17.5%) of Near Eastern mtDNA haplogroups. Each of these haplogroups is represented by different haplotypes, thus dismissing the possibility that the genetic allocation of the Murlo people is due to drift. Other Tuscan populations do not show the same striking feature; however, overall, 5% of mtDNA haplotypes in Tuscany are shared exclusively between Tuscans and Near Easterners and occupy terminal positions in the phylogeny. These findings support a direct and rather recent genetic input from the Near East.

Sometimes history can be extremely well illuminated by simple genetic studies. This is one such case. The origins of the Etruscans are (were?) “mysterious.” Some would hold that they are indigenous to the Italian peninsula, while others promote a more exotic provenance. Here is Herodotus, the father of lies:

The customs of the Lydians are like those of the Greeks, except that they make prostitutes of their female children. They were the first men whom we know who coined and used gold and silver currency; and they were the first to sell by retail. And, according to what they themselves say, the games now in use among them and the Greeks were invented by the Lydians: these, they say, were invented among them at the time when they colonized Tyrrhenia….

Tyrrehnia is Etruria, modern Tuscany. When I first encountered the “Lydian hypothesis,” I was rather skeptical. After all, how plausible is it that Anatolians around ~1000 BCE set off and colonized the northwest coast of the Italian peninsula? It seemed to me that a more likely possibility was that the Etruscans emerged from the indigenous non-Indo-European substratum of Italy, and that any coincidences with Anatolian cultural forms were happenstance or due to diffusion. This is a common model in archeology, people do not move, cultural elements do, and parallelism is a common tendency. An anti-migration bias probably is a backlash against the assumption in the early half of the 20th century that entire populations took flight or were displaced in the ancient world. The British imagined themselves descended from Anglo-Saxon Germans, not the Celts they conquered. The Arab speaking peoples of course were descended from Arabs who conquered the indigneous people of the Middle East, who dissipated over time. And so on. But the reality is clealry very different, a general trend seems to be that cultural elites can have great impact and transform the mores of a subject population, and that this was more common than wholesale replacement. Nevertheless, there are counter examples, and the Etruscans seem to be one. It is particularly instructive that female genetic data, mitochondrial haplotypes, were used to point to their likely exogenous origin, because colonizing groups usually take local wives. That the Anatolians brought their women suggests that this was a folk wandering of massive proportions, more like the British settlement of the eastern North American seaboard than the Spanish colonization of Latin America. According to Oxford classicist Robin Lane Fox the Greek colonial expeditions, which barely post-dated the putative Anatolian emigration, were characterized by a very strong male bias in sex ratios. It seems that the Greek colonial policy was driven by overpopulation and political troubles at home, disruptive were men simply sent off overseas. If Etruscan men and women journeyed across the Mediterranean that suggests a wholesale transplation, not just the emigration of a slice of the population which needed to be got rid of.

In any case, I do find it interesting that the Romans concocted a tale of their Trojan origins, because Troy is located to the north and west of the ancient Lydian homeland. Surely coincidence, but a deliciously amusing one nonetheless.

Technical Notes: The diversity of haplotypes from the Near East suggests that large number of immigrants who represented the full range of Near Eastern diversity. If only a small group arrived but reproduced prolifically founder effect would blow up the inevitable sampling error from the source population. The Etruscans would have been a more distorted slice of the Middle Eastern mtDNA landscape. Similarly, if the peculiarity was due to genetic drift pushing up a the frequency of an exotic allele, then that would have extinguished most of the variation and resulted in one lineage being predominant. The diversity tends to argue against this.


08 marzo 2012

Etruscan Journey

"Travel the Etruscan Coast wine route to the Maremma Hills wine route; this a Tuscan experience to remember."

Etruscan Coast Wine Route

This route arrives to the maritime city of Piombino, going through Cornia Valley, Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci. The road proceeds in Elba Island going through all the Island from Marina di Campo to Rio Marina. Sassicaia, the world-known wine, is born here in the San Guido estate near Bolgheri. You can't forget the Bolgheri DOC and Elba DOC or the very good and quite unknown Cornia Valley wines.

Monteregio di Massa Marittima Wine Route

At the southern border of Etruscan Coast route, starts the Monteregio di Massa Marittima wine route. In these last 3 years this route has become quite famous. This route goes through the metal-bearing hills in the Maremma area. If you drive this road you will find small towns full of culture and art such as Massa Marittima with its Dome, Vetulonia with its Etruscan ruins, Gavorrano and Montemassi with its gastronomical and naturalistic traditions, Punta Ala and Castiglione della Pescaia well equipped but unpolluted seaside resorts. In this area you find the Monteregio wine great to put together with the traditional dishes from Maremma cooking.

Montecucco Wine Route

This route is situated between Maremma and Amiata area. In this territory you can find famous spa resorts like Petriolo and little towns full of ancient traditions like Civitella Marittima, so you have the chance to visit an emergent Tuscan corner in wine production. The Montecucco DOC is the local white and red wine.

Montepulciano Wine Route

This is the producing area of the Nobile of Montepulciano. This wine should vintage in oak and chestnut wood barrels almost two years before it could be named Nobile di Montepulciano. This is the first wine to get the Italian DOCG brand and one of the most prestigious Italian wine abroad. Different is the destiny for the other famous wine produced here: the Rosso di Montepulciano. This wine is not vintage and you can drink it with the typical Tuscan starters or with cheese not too mature.

Maremma Hills Wine Route

This route is in the south of Grosseto An area where you can learn its history through its ancient traditions and the Etruscan culture. An area where nature express itself with the colors, the climate, the scents and the hills that overlooking the sea. The two local wines are Morellino di Scansano without any doubt – one of the most known Tuscan red wines - and the Bianco di Pitigliano – fresh white wine to be served with seafood.

07 marzo 2012

Etruscan Culture

Etruscan Press is…

... a non-profit cooperative of poets and writers working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, achieve a distinctive voice, and reshape the literary and cultural history of which we are a part. We publish books of poems, novels, short stories, creative nonfiction, criticism, and anthologies.


05 marzo 2012

Unraveling the Etruscan Enigma

by Rossella Lorenzi

Excavations are bringing us closer to one of the ancient world’s most fascinating cultures

They taught the French to make wine and the Romans to build roads, and they introduced writing to Europe, but the Etruscans have long been considered one of antiquity’s great enigmas. No one knew exactly where they came from. Their language was alien to their neighbors. Their religion included the practice of divination, performed by priests who examined animals’ entrails to predict the future. Much of our knowledge about Etruscan civilization comes from ancient literary sources and from tomb excavations, many of which were carried out decades ago. But all across Italy, archaeologists are now creating a much richer picture of Etruscan social structure, trade relationships, economy, daily lives, religion, and language than has ever been possible. Excavations at sites including the first monumental tomb to be explored in over two decades, a rural sanctuary filled with gold artifacts, the only Etruscan house with intact walls and construction materials still preserved, and an entire seventh-century B.C. miner’s town, are revealing that the Etruscans left behind more than enough evidence to show that perhaps, they aren’t such a mystery after all.