The city of Lucca as seen from satellite. Source: Google Earth.
The city of Lucca as seen from satellite. Source: Google Earth.

It just came out in American Journal of Physical anthropology our new paper (behind paywall) The female ancestor’s tale: Long‐term matrilineal continuity in a nonisolated region of Tuscany, Result of the collaboration between the University of Ferrara and the University of Florence. Here is an open-access link to the PDF (read-only).

North-Western Tuscany (roughly Lucca and Massa Carrara provinces) has always been a corridor of exchange between Central and North-Western Italy. The region was disputed between the Etruscans and Ligurians, it has been then conquered by the Romans, and in the following centuries underwent several changes of rulers.

We tried to define if and when such complex history entailed matrilinear discontinuity in the local population. We did so by analysing a portion of the mitochondrial DNA in 119 samples from the region, dated from the Copper age (around 5,000 years ago) the Roman period, the Renaissance, modern-day and including some Etruscan sequences from the whole of Tuscany.


Using computer simulations we found out that the better explanation for the genetic diversity in our samples is that they belong to the same population, in continuity through time. This is a quite surprising result since similar degrees of long-term continuity have been mostly observed in isolated areas.

A possible explanation of those results that either the historical changes observed in north-western Tuscany (conquers, immigration etc.) mainly lead to foreign males arriving and marrying local females. It is also possible that the rulers from outside (Romans, Lombards, French) and the local population did not mix significantly because they were part of different social groups. Whatever the region may be, modern day Lucca inhabitants appear to be the direct descendants of the women living in the regions millennia ago, teaching us that genetic continuity can not only be found in isolated communities.

3 thoughts on “Press release: 5,000 years of matrilineal continuity in North-Western Tuscany

  1. Very interesting paper. Would it be possible, if it isn’t too much to ask, for the mtDna of the Etruscan samples to be provided, and dates for the specific lineages listed in the Supplement?

    Thank-you for your kind consideration.

  2. Dear Maria,
    thank you for your comment. The mtDNA from the Etruscan samples is the same used for the paper from Ghirotto and colleagues (2013), and you can find all the relevant information on the sequences on their table S1.
    Unfortunately, there are no precise dates available for the samples newly obtained for this study, besides the rough chronological information available in table 1 (see here
    All the very best
    Michela Leonardi

    1. P.S. all the Etruscan sequences are also freely available in Genebank filed under their respective publications: Ghirotto et al. (2013) and Vernesi et al. (2004).

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