The Francis Crick Institute
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An individual with Sarmatian-related ancestry in Roman Britain.

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-01-10, 12:45 authored by Marina Silva, Thomas Booth, Joanna Moore, Kyriaki Anastasiadou, Don Walker, Alexandre Gilardet, Christopher Barrington, Monica Kelly, Mia Williams, Michael Henderson, Alex Smith, David Bowsher, Janet Montgomery, Pontus Skoglund
In the second century CE the Roman Empire had increasing contact with Sarmatians, nomadic Iranian speakers occupying an area stretching from the Pontic-Caspian steppe to the Carpathian mountains, both in the Caucasus and in the Danubian borders of the empire.1,2,3 In 175 CE, following their defeat in the Marcomannic Wars, emperor Marcus Aurelius drafted Sarmatian cavalry into Roman legions and deployed 5,500 Sarmatian soldiers to Britain, as recorded by contemporary historian Cassius Dio.4,5 Little is known about where the Sarmatian cavalry were stationed, and no individuals connected with this historically attested event have been identified to date, leaving its impact on Britain largely unknown. Here we document Caucasus- and Sarmatian-related ancestry in the whole genome of a Roman-period individual (126-228 calibrated [cal.] CE)-an outlier without traceable ancestry related to local populations in Britain-recovered from a farmstead site in present-day Cambridgeshire, UK. Stable isotopes support a life history of mobility during childhood. Although several scenarios are possible, the historical deployment of Sarmatians to Britain provides a parsimonious explanation for this individual's extraordinary life history. Regardless of the factors behind his migrations, these results highlight how long-range mobility facilitated by the Roman Empire impacted provincial locations outside of urban centers.


Crick (Grant ID: CC1107, Grant title: STP Bioinformatics & Biostatistics) Crick (Grant ID: CC2109, Grant title: Skoglund CC2109) Wellcome Trust (Grant ID: 217223/Z/19/Z, Grant title: WT 217223/Z/19/Z) European Research Council (Grant ID: 852558, Grant title: ERC 852558 - AGRICON) The Bert L & N Kuggie Vallee Foundation (Grant title: Vallee Scholar) European Molecular Biology Organization (Grant ID: 4990, Grant title: EMBO Young Investigator)