Serendipity: Time Travel with the Romans with a Twist of DNA

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

I recently wrote about the unexpected connection between where I stayed in the French Alps (Saint Gervais near les Contamines and the Roman Road and Bridge) and the Roman occupation of Lyon known as Lugdunum by the Romans. Basically, we were following in the footsteps of Roman armies traversing the alps and making their way to Lyon but at the time I had no idea.

Roman Bridge

Along the way the Romans conquered Gaul and founded their capital of Lugdunum (now Lyon). Then a few days ago, Vanessa, a fellow administrator of the YDNA U152-FGC22501 Celtic project, asks me to watch videos The Mystery of the Headless Romans, and another The Roman Catastrophe Of Teutoburg Forest: Varian Disaster. The original speculation was that these were decapitated Roman gladiators of York. They are of interest because one of them, 6Drif-22, is Y-DNA FGC22501+ (a very old cousin of my husband from whose YDNA, the SNP or mutation, FGC22501 was named). The video recounts another theory on who they were and how they came to be decapitated. So I am watching the video (especially starting around minute 37) when the explanation gets to the Roman Emperor, Caracalla, who along with his brother Geta inherit the throne from their father, Septimius Severus, who died at Eboracum (known today as York, England). In the video Roman expert, Anthony Birley, believes that the decapitated skeletons of York were high ranking individuals and political enemies of Caracalla and that they were brutally decapitated to send a strong message. In the writings of the Roman Historian, Lucius Cassius Dio (c.155 – c. 235), he recounts how Caracalla after the death of his father, had his father’s doctors, chamberlains, secretaries, and even Caracalla’s own tutor beheaded in a public execution. I note that the established date range of 100-400 AD with the date of Septimius Severus death in early 211 is consistent. However, what really catches my eye in the video is an image of Caracalla, which seems oddly familiar.

So I go to the photos I took in Lyon at the Lugdunum Musee et Theatres Romains (The Roman Museum of Lyon) and there it is! A photo of a bust of Caracalla. I had taken the photo, as he reminded me a little of my son. It is the only photo of a bust I took although there were many in the museum. What are the odds?

Caracalla ruled 208-211

And there’s more! Caracalla is the son of Lucius Septimius Severus and his second wife Julia Domna. His father Severus defeated Albinus in the year 197 at the Battle of Lugdunum (Lyon) in Gaul said to be the bloodiest, largest, and most hard-fought of the clashes between various Roman forces. So Septimius Severus captures Lyon. And get this, then growing restless, eleven years later in 208 he travels to Britain, strengthening Hadrian’s Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall. In 209 with an army of 50,000 men, he invades Caledonia (now Scotland) but does not succeed in capturing it. In an 210 he contracts a fatal illness and dies in early 211 at Eboracum (York). Where we come full circle with our FGC22501+ Skeleton. More about that here and here.

Below are coins depicting father and son.

There have been about 70 Emperors of the Roman Empire and yet these two were to be my guideposts. Now you might be thinking that’s not so much of a coincidence, however the number of large European cities I have visited is small and even smaller is the number I have explored on foot. There are 8: London, York, Edinburgh, Exeter, Warwick, Ulm, Heidelberg and Lyon. The reason I was in Lyon was that my son was there on sabbatical. The reason I was in the Alps, was after 35+ years of watching the Tour de France, I had always wanted to go. While looking for a place to stay, I found one in Saint Gervais that I liked. Once I made the reservation I looked at hikes and points of interest and found a hike to a Roman Bridge via a Roman Road. I had already determined that my trip would not place me in proximity to any of my French ancestors or to the possible Celtic stronghold of FGC22501 which is more to the north near Toul (Tullum Leucorum) and Trier (Augusta Treverorum). So I came to these places in France by happenstance and not by design. I did not expect to find a genealogical connection there. That’s what makes the disparate elements coming together all the more compelling.

This uncanny intersection happened before, when I visited the city of York in search of a possible more recent ancestor who was incarcerated at York Prison. While in York I visited the lovely Cathedral and found that it was built on top of the remains of a Roman Basilica and is visible in the undercroft of York Minster. First is a Roof tile of the VI Victrix who joined with Severus to attack Caledonia and other artifacts of the Roman occupation.

Roof Tile of the VI Victrix Legion & other items
Undercroft of York Cathedral 2015

This is a remnant of a mural in said Basilica I photographed while there.

Part of a Roman Mural in Basilica under York Cathedral


  • 2300-1600 BCE (before Current Eon) a man dies in Prague, Czech Republic (about 4,000 years ago) and he (known as I7202) is positive for the mutation FGC22501 (this is the earliest known man having this mutation)
  • 290-250 BCE two of his direct Y descendants also FGC22501+ die and are buried about 28 miles NW of Prague in Radovesice, Czech Republic. So in 1300 +/- years the DNA has not moved very far.
  • 145 AD Lucius Septimius Severus is born in Libya, Severus is a Roman officer under Marcus Aurelius and later Marcus’ son Commodus
  • 165 Roman Legion I Italica is founded by Marcus Aurelius when Rome fought the Parthians and the Germans. His emblem was the Capitoline she-wolf.
  • 193 Severus along with the Italica marches on Rome and seizes power after the death of the Roman emperor Pertinax and kills Dudius Julianus the then emperor, to become the new emperor.
  • 197 Severus founds the Roman Legion II Parthica expands the empire capturing Gaul for himself in the bloody Battle of Lugdunun (Lyon) where he fights his powerful rival, Clodius Albinus, the Roman governor of Britain.
  • 198 Severus proclaims his son Caracalla co-emperor
  • 208 In the Spring, Severus travels to Britain where he gathers 50,000 men in an attempt to conquer Caledonia (Scotland) Drawing on the Roman Legions: II Parthica (his), VI Victrix from Eboracum (York), II Augusta from Caerleon, Wales &  XX Valeria Victrix from Chester.
  • 209 Severus makes his younger son Geta co-emperor with Caracalla
  • 210 Severus becomes fatally ill and dies in 211 in Eboracum (York) never realizing his conquest of Caledonia
  • 211 Caracalla and Geta succeed their father as co-emperors but that is short lived as Caracalla has his brother murdered by the Praetorian Guard
  • 213 Caracalla campaign against the Germans
  • 100-400 estimated death of the skeleton 5Drif-22 (FGC22501) perhaps executed by Caracalla and buried outside the city of Eboracum (York) so that would fit
  • November 2014 my husbands Y Elite DNA test identifies and names the SNP FGC22501
  • April 2015 I visit the city of York (Eboracum) and the remains of the Roman Basilica in the undercroft of York Cathedral. About 2 blocks away an excavation is taking place unbeknownst to me
  • 2016 one of the skeletons exhumed in the excavation, 6Driff-22, tests positive for FGC22501 and the results are published
  • 2022 recently Y DNA analyzed skeletons from Radovesice, Czech Republic I14974 and I15951 test positive for FGC22501
  • October 2022 I travel to St Gervais in the French Alps and hike the Roman Road to the Roman Bridge near les Contamines
  • October 2022 I visit the 2 Roman amphitheatres and the Roman Museum in Lyon (Lugdunum) and take a photo of the emperor Caracalla because it reminded me of my son
  • November 2022 I watch a video mentioning Caracalla as the possible murderer of the 6Drif-22 skeleton in York

Random elements tied together through history and DNA tell a story of human civilizations and their movements. I did not set out to discover this story, but it seems it insisted on being told. The 4000 year old skeleton in Prague is the earliest known direct Y DNA ancestor of my husband and it is also my own in that I am also descended from the original American progenitor Robert WHEATON as well. This is but one line in human history that travels, most likely from the Eurasian Steppe to Prague and the Unetice culture and from there into Celtic cultures like the Boii tribe. Vanessa makes a strong case that many of the FGC22501 men later became chancellors and seneschals to the powerful leaders and clergy. This may account for not only their survival, but how over time they scatter broadly across Europe. Even though they were originally Celts they may have traveled with Romans, Saxons or later Normans particularly in the branches that end up in Britain. There is no evidence that FGC22501 was of Roman origin, but some of the Celtic Tribes did align with the Roman armies. Some were mercenaries or some taken by force.

The Y SNP FGC22501 has representatives in the following countries today: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belarus, Switzerland, Spain, England, Wales, Canada and the United States. There are dozens of surnames that are descendants of the first man in who this mutation FGC22501 occurred. What ties them together is their Y DNA and our shared history. We are never very far from our past, when we take a closer look around its everywhere.

“Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor.”

Arnold J. Toynbee

Kelly Wheaton ©2022 – All RIghts Reserved

8 Comments on “Serendipity: Time Travel with the Romans with a Twist of DNA”

  1. Pingback: The Human Diaspora: Illustrated through a Single Y SNP | Wheaton Wood

  2. Dear Kelly

    Behind with everything….just found this one and I am flabbergasted! The research you have done is incredible! Abd then putting it all together….brilliant.

  3. Okay…I am reading these latest email links backwards…I ended with a possible Roman link on my first post and for goodness sake I realise after reading this, I put I was linked to historical grave finds in Dubrovnik and of course I meant PRAGUE. I went to Dubrovnik on holiday a while back so that just popped into my head. Of course I am linked to the Driffield skeleton, in fact I am linked to four of them!!! U106 S11515 is my brother, the U152 my cousin and a DF88 another Celtic line but carried interestingly by the Frisii and the fourth one is L21.

  4. Pingback: Science as Religion | Wheaton Wood

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