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The “Etruscans” from Murlo

Traces of Etruscan civilisation can still be found today in this area near Siena

Map for 43.168716,11.391039

This time I will tell you about the Etruscans of Murlo. I realize that I am introducing the topic rather abruptly, but I want to get right to the point. About thirty kilometers from Siena, towards Rome, there is a little village in the hills isolated from major roadways where it is still possible to encounter Etruscans (about 35) in flesh and blood: the inhabitants of Murlo. But before going into the story too much, just a little note on the Etruscans: the Etruscans were the inhabitants of the greater part of central Italy between the second and ninth centuries B.C. They had come to Italy as exiles from a region of the Middle East (possibly from modern-day Turkey) and in the end became subjects of the Roman Empire. From the very first centuries of their allocation in Italy, they had already developed a form of social organization, culturally and commercially unique to Europe. Although it is not certain that the Etruscans themselves founded Rome, it is certain that they were among the first Kings of Rome. It is also certain that the offspring of the Roman aristocracy were educated in Etruscan schools.

It would be the same Roman aristocracy which would later rob the Etruscan population of their ethnic identity and impose upon them the Roman culture. The Etruscans produced oil and wine and exported it to half of Europe (the most ancient wine container ever found in France is Etruscan). Etruria (the land of the Etruscans) was a confederation of 12 cities, the so-called "dodecapoli" and one could practically say with confidence that almost all of the Tuscan hill cities have an Etruscan origin. Getting back to Murlo- A few years ago a group of researchers from the Institute of Genetics of the University of Torino arrived in Murlo. After a historical investigation was conducted there and also in other cities of Tuscany, they concluded that Murlo had remained in tact and untouched by war and invasions throughout history. It was far enough away from major roadways and communication to guarantee total isolation to its inhabitants to the point that the genetic heritage remained almost uncontaminated. The research compared the DNA taken from ancient Etruscan bone samples with the actual DNA of modern-day residents of Murlo. The result was that the people of Murlo have conserved several genetic characteristics of the Etruscan population, such as: the facial features (the distance between the eyes, a straight and short nose, rather pronounced cheekbones) and the structure of their feet.

We also know through other sources that the Etruscans passed on other important legacies: culinary recipes such as the Tuscan ribollita, and lasagna, and also the aspirated "C" sound of the Tuscan dialect which turns "coca-cola" into "coha-hola". When the media found out that it was possible to interview an actual descendant of the Etruscans in flesh and blood, they invaded Murlo and its inhabitants at an international level. One of the most prestigious and well-known French weeklies, "Le Figaro", dedicated an entire insert to this finding. But even today the question of the true heredity of the people of Murlo remains under speculation and many researchers, journalists and crowds of onlookers continue to bombard the small town every year. From the precious words of Camilla and Luciano, the Etruscans of Murlo that told me every minute detail of this story and all its particulars, one can see that they have lived this experience like a game. Naturally, there are some that like to brag about their new-found roots but I also recall of another who when asked by a news journalist how he felt to be Etruscan, he responded, somewhat bothered, "Well, I feel normal"...


From "Slowtuscany": Stories about Tuscany by Damiano Andrei
Translation by: Andrea Brown, Giovanna Novelli, Munmun Gosh

damiano.andreini@libero.it - www.intermezzieditore.it/slowtuscany