A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)


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A spread of early eastern Urnfield cultures from Transdanubia is attested in the Po Valley[Váczi 2013].

The Villanovan culture (ca. 1100-700 BC), expanded from early Urnfield, has long been associated with Proto-Italic[Gimbutas 1965]. However, the association of Villanovan culture with Italic languages remains controversial, since Villanovan territory is partially coincident with the later Etruscan-speaking zone, and no clear cultural break is seen between both cultures.

Nevertheless, a resurge of a previous language – akin to the example of Proto-Basque and Iberian languages – might explain the cultural continuity in Etruria.

Genetic analysis of the modern population show a spread of R1b1a1a2a1a2b-U152 lineages south of the Alps, including north and central Italy, which supports the invasion of this group from the north, through the Alps. However, as with Greece – and even more so – the complexity of the current Y-DNA maps of the region mirrors the Italian Peninsula’s multiple genetic flows since the Palaeolithic[Sarno et al. 2017].

Classical sources since the Aeneid – Virgil’s epic poem linking the foundation of Rome to the flight of Aeneas from the Troy of Homer’s Iliad – have possibly influenced the traditional rejection by famous Italian linguists of the unity between Latin and Osco-Umbrian.

While both branches share common innovations, and it is therefore difficult today to reject a shared community by relating all differences to recent contacts, some linguists have tried to reconcile the obvious Italic nature of Latin and its morphological differences compared with Osco-Umbrian with a potential late Anatolian substratum, and have thus supported an eastern invasion through Apulia.

To further complicate the linguistic and archaeological discussion around Latin, there are an as of yet unexplained genetic flows between Anatolia and Italian samples since the Chalcolithic unrelated to the known earlier Neolithic expansion of Middle Eastern farmers, which adds to the controversy surrounding the origin of Etruscan (see Anatolian).

The expansion of Rome seems not to have been accompanied by a massive migration of peoples, and cultural diffusion is likely to have played a bigger role in the expansion of Latin.

iron_age_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 750-250 BC[Thurston 2009][Cunliffe and Koch 2012].

antiquity_classical_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250 BC – 250 AD.

antiquity_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250-750 AD.


  • [Cunliffe and Koch 2012] ^ Cunliffe, Barry W., and John T. Koch. 2012. Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language, and Literature. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • [Gimbutas 1965] ^ Gimbutas, Marija. 1965. Bronze Age cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. The Hague: Mouton & Co.
  • [Sarno et al. 2017] ^ Sarno, Stefania, Alessio Boattini, Luca Pagani, Marco Sazzini, Sara De Fanti, Andrea Quagliariello, Guido Alberto Gnecchi Ruscone, Etienne Guichard, Graziella Ciani, Eugenio Bortolini, Chiara Barbieri, Elisabetta Cilli, Rosalba Petrilli, Ilia Mikerezi, Luca Sineo, Miguel Vilar, Spencer Wells, Donata Luiselli, and Davide Pettener. 2017. Ancient and recent admixture layers in Sicily and Southern Italy trace multiple migration routes along the Mediterranean. Scientific Reports 7 (1):1984.
  • [Thurston 2009] ^ Thurston, Tina. 2009. Unity and Diversity in the European Iron Age: Out of the Mists, Some Clarity? Journal of Archaeological Research 17 (4):347-423.
  • [Váczi 2013] ^ Váczi, Gábor. 2013. Cultural connections and interactions of Eastern Transdanubia during the Urnfield period. DissArch 3 (1):205-230.