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The Etruscans

Statue of an Etruscan warrior The Etruscans were an ancient people whose culture flourished in central Italy from around 800 BC to around 250 BC. The Etruscans have given their name to the modern Italian region of Tuscany and to the wider region of Etruria, although they called themselves the Rasenna. Our knowledge of the Etruscans is very incomplete, as their language is unrelated to any other European language and is still largely unread. What little we know about them is from their art and the objects they left behind in graves.



The Etruscan hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio

Origins

Historians used to think the Etruscans came from Anatolia in western Turkey around 5000 years ago, but the evidence suggests they emerged from early farming peoples of Italy. From around 800 BC, the Etruscans began to build hilltop settlements in central Italy—some of which still survive today. The settlements were surrounded by high walls. The Etruscans mined and traded metals, especially copper and iron, as well as bronze vessels and pottery, across the western Mediterranean Sea, and became increasingly prosperous. They were a warlike people and raided neighbouring areas during the summer to gain land, goods, and slaves. At first they were ruled by kings, but appear to have formed republics during the 6th century BC.

The Etruscans, like the early Greeks, wrote from right to left. They started using a modified version of the Greek alphabet from around 700 BC.

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