Saturday, November 27, 2010

What is an Etruscan?

The headline said "No Etruscan link to modern Tuscans Study shows" with a sub heading "genetic discontinuity with Bronze Age people," as it was declared by the Universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma on behalf of its esteemed and tenured sociology and anthropolgy professors, which their E.U.-funded research found.

The news and of course world-government seeking bureaucrats would claim it to be the definitve truth.

Fortunately for civilization, there are many Etruscans left like Motorino Man's alter ego and your friendly writer who had a visit from the 2000 census-counter in Washington DC coming to learn what Etruscan blood is in fact. Once discovering that Etruscan homeland is on the Italic peninsula the census declared Motorino Man "just another Italian trouble maker."

I did remind her Italy the country and thus Italians were not identified as such until long after a country called the United States was founded and even when Lincoln fought the civil war there was no "Italy" to ally.

In fact, the success of Italy's Made In Italy products is rooted in local-ism ot global-ism. Most recall Italy's recent experiment with centralized planning by Mussolini, which sure did get the trains running on time but it also resulted in hundreds pf thousands of deaths. Italy is better known for its long traditition of city-states ruled by locally and which industries are intricately tied together locally to create great product. Today this fashion of doing business is resulting in major contributions to pharmaceutical, technology, aerospace, and other modern-day cutting edge industries.

According to researchers at the universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma discovered the genealogical discontinuity by testing samples of mitochondrial DNA from remains of Etruscans and people who lived in the Middle Ages (between the 10th and 15th centuries) as well as from people living in the region today.

While there was a clear genetic link between Medieval Tuscans and the current population, the relationship between modern Tuscans and their Bronze Age ancestors could not be proven, the study showed. The study did not reach outside Tuscany to the Italic peneinsula nor did it reach other countries.

''Some people have hypothesised that the most ancient DNA sequences, those from the Etruscan era, could contain errors or have been contaminated but tests conducted with new methods exclude this,'' said David Caramelli of Florence University and Guido Barbujani of Ferrara University.

''The most simple explanation is that the structure of the Tuscan population underwent important demographic changes in the first millennium before Christ,'' they said.

''Immigration and forced migration have diluted the Etruscan genetic inheritance so much as to make it difficult to recognise''.

The scientific data does not necessarily mean that the Etruscans died out, the researchers said.

Teams from Florence and Ferrara universities are working to identify whether traces of the Etruscans' genetic inheritance may still exist in people living in isolated locations in the region.

The new study is published online by the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The Etruscans lived mainly between the rivers Tiber and Arno in modern-day Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, in the first millennium BC.

By the sixth century BC they had become the dominant force in central Italy, but repeated attacks from Gauls and Syracusans later forced them into an alliance with the embryonic Roman state, which gradually absorbed Etruscan civilization.

Most of what is known about the Etruscans derives from archaeology as the few accounts passed down by Roman historians tend to be hostile, portraying them as gluttonous and lecherous. Yet it is know that ancient Rome and ancient Romans adopted many of the Etruscan customs.

This problem is compounded by the fact that Etruscan cities were built almost entirely of wood and so vanished quickly, leaving little for archaeologists to investigate.

Photo: Head of Hermes, 510-500 BC.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Rome Holidays: Ancient Rome Forum Opens Temple of Venus and Rome

Ancient Rome's most imposing shrine, the Temple of Venus and Rome, has reopened after a restoration lasting almost 30 years in welcome news for a government under pressure since last weekend's collapse of Pompeii's Gladiator School.

Facing East and West to symbolize the sweep of the empire, the temple was built in the second century AD by Hadrian on the vestibule of Nero's Golden House, shifting the Colossus of Nero close to the Flavian Amphitheatre so that it got its better-known name, the Colosseum.

"We have restored to Rome one of the most powerful symbols of the power and greatness of the Roman Empire," said restoration chief Claudia Del Monti, who has been on the job for all but three years of its 26-year duration.

"My project was aimed at reading the temple as far as possible in its entirety," she said, recalling that it had once been split in two and was used as a car park until the 1980s.

Rome's archeological superintendent, Anna Maria Moretti, said the revamped temple "affords an extraordinary view, walking up from the Colosseum".

With majestic pillars and soaring arches, the Temple of Venus Felix (Venus the Bringer of Good Fortune) and Aeterna Roma (Eternal Rome) was designed by Hadrian in 121 AD, inaugurated by him in 135, and finished by his successor Antoninus Pius in 141.

Damaged by fire in 307, it was restored with changes by Maxentius.

The temple restoration is part of the government's plans to open up more ancient sites, said Culture Undersecretary Franco Giro, deputising for Culture Minister Sandro Bondi who was fielding a fusillade of questions in parliament over Saturday's collapse of the school in Naples where gladiators trained. Giro noted that the pits under the Colosseum where gladiators prepared for mortal combat have recently been unveiled and other temples, such as that of Antoninus and Faustina, are set to be reopened within the next year.

"We are respecting the schedule we set for the Forum and we are proceeding with a restoration of an area that was in deep decay, having been abandoned by governments of all colors," Giro said.

He rejected criticism of Bondi's handling of Italy's artistic heritage which began with his allegedly supine acceptance of budget cuts that led to Italy's museums staging a mass closure Friday.

The undersecretary also defended the minister from what he described as "unfair" attacks over the situation in Pompeii, calling the center-left opposition "ill-informed".

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