Ancient Britons in Roman Britain

Ancient Britons in Roman Britain | Northern Europe | England | 100-300 CE

Few cultures have had as much of a lasting impact on the map of Europe as the Roman Empire, which lasted from 31 BCE to 476 CE. Upon its decline and fall, there occurred a split between the Greek Eastern and Latin Western halves and the Middle Ages began.

Julius Caesar in his conquests of Gaul in present-day France invaded the southern coast of England in 55 BCE, but it was not until 43 CE that the colony named Britannia was added to the Empire. The Emperor Claudius rode an elephant in his triumphal march through London and Colchester. Roman Britain became defined by the building of Hadrian’s Wall in 122 CE, which ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. Ireland was never invaded.

York in northern England is a major source of archeological evidence from the Roman period in Britain. The data regarding Ancient Britons in Roman Britain were compiled from excavations in a Roman cemetery along Driffield Terrace, a stretch of road approaching York from the southwest, between 2004 and 2005. The burials included men who had been decapitated with their skulls placed between their knees or feet, earning them the nickname the Headless Romans. The seven individuals from this site were carbon-dated to between 100 and 300 CE. There has been speculation in the British press that some of the individuals were gladiators, soldiers or important Celtic leaders.

Genetic analysis has shown that most of the people buried at Driffield terrace were of western European origin, apart from one unusual individual. Skeletal analysis showed this man was under 45 years old and taller than the average Roman. He had dark hair and brown eyes and carried genetic markers indicating he was probably of Middle Eastern origin. His Y-DNA haplogroup was J, a type of high frequency in the Middle East today. He represents a solitary example of the extremes of migration within the Roman Empire. All of the other men belonged to haplogroup R1b, the most common type in Western Europe today, reaching its greatest frequency in the British Isles. Five individuals belong to mitochondrial haplogroup H6, a Central Asian subdivision of the most common lineage in Europe today that was rare before the Bronze Age and was probably the fellow traveller of R1b.

Code: BRB-8

Ancient DNA Hub Reference: Roman Britain

Story ID: 20003

Contributing ancient genomes: 7 (Gaius, Hadrian, Virgil, Decimus, Silvester, Sebastian, Flavius)

You may be interested in these present-day populations available in the DNA Fingerprint Plus:
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White – U.S. (n=3,915)

You may be interested in the following potential match from the Rare Genes from History test:
The Empire Gene

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