Etruria was a region located in present day Central Italy that gave birth to one of the first civilizations in Europe. The origin of the Etruscan civilization is a long-standing subject of debate among scholars from different disciplines. The bulk of the information has been reconstructed from ancient texts and archaeological findings and, in the last few years, through genetic studies. A new study that aims to investigate the biological origins of the Etruscans has revealed a migration event from the Armenian Highlands into Tuscany (Central Italy) at around 850 BCE.

The analysis revealed that people of Tuscany poses a sizable amount of genetic traces from Middle East in particular the Armenian Highlands.

“Admixture analysis indicates the presence of 25–34% of Middle Eastern component in modern Tuscans. …genetic distances point to Eastern Anatolia/Southern Caucasus as the most likely geographic origin of the main Middle Eastern genetic component observed in the genome of modern Tuscans.”

Of all the Mid-East populations tested in the study, Armenians appear to show the least amount of difference with people of Tuscany (see fig. 1) and the greatest amount of genetic affinity:

“IBS values were also computed for each TSI (Tuscan) individual against each population. This analysis very clearly indicates the highest values for TSI individuals when compared against ARM (Armenians). The populations showing the lowest IBS values with TSI are UZB (Uzbeks), YMN (Yemenis), and EGP (Egyptians).”

Among all the Mid-Eastern populations tested, Armenians show the least difference with the people of Tuscany.
Among all the Mid-Eastern populations tested, Armenians show the least difference with the people of Tuscany.

Thus Armenians along with immediate neighbors appear to be more closely related to Etruscans than other Middle Easterners which places the Near-Eastern components of Etruscan admixture in Armenian Highlands. An elaborate analysis has been applied to identify the date of this Near Eastern genetic influx with results pointing towards the Iron age period.

The study reports:

“The data indicate that the admixture event between local Tuscans and Middle Easterners could have occurred in Central Italy about 2,600–3,100 years ago (y.a.). On the whole, the results validate the theory of the ancient historian Herodotus on the origin of Etruscans.”

In layman terms this means that a sizable migration event into (present day) Tuscany from the Armenian Highlands has occurred at around 850 BCE. Which coincides with the advent of the Etruscan civilization. This implies that as Ararat (Urartu) was forming into a formidable kingdom, a group likely from this very region migrated and settled into Central Italy. Interestingly, these results appears to coincide with the accounts of some ancient historians like Herodotus who theorized that Etruscans emigrated from Asia Minor around 1,200 BCE as the result of a famine.

Previous Study

Coincidentally, another study published in Science Magazine (Hellenthal et al., 2014) has already shown a significant genetic Armenian component within the population of Tuscany (Italy).

Genetic admixture of the population of Tuscany.
Genetic admixture of the population of Tuscany.

The Armenian-Etruscan connection has also been argued for by various academics in the past. The British scholar Dr. Robert Ellis, for example, describes in his book The Armenian Origin of the Etruscans :

“The Armenians, like the Celts, are now few in number. They belong once to a longer extent of a country where they spread westward from Armenia to Italy under the names of Phrygians, Thracians, Pelasgians, Etruscans and also spread to other locations.”

Norwegian scholar Dr. Bugge, also suggested that the Etruscan language was of Armenian extraction. Other scholars like Vahan M. Kurkjian have identified Urartean art, architecture, language and general cultural traces of kinship to the Etruscans of the Italian peninsula. Armenian genetic traces among the populations of Tuscany therefore corroborate with the Etruscan-Armenian theory.