DNA suggests 10000-year-old Brit had dark skin, blue eyes

Gwen Vasquez
February 9, 2018

This week, United Kingdom scientists confirmed that the first modern Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, following groundbreaking DNA analysis of the remains of a man who lived 10,000 years ago.

The scientists from London's Natural History Museum and University College London (UCL) analysed DNA from an nearly complete Homo sapiens skeleton, known as Cheddar Man after it was found in a cave in Cheddar Gorge in south-western England in 1903.

Previous reconstructions of Cheddar Man, which were not based on DNA data, depicted him with a lighter skin tone.

"They had dark skin, and majority had pigmented eyes, either blue or green".

The Cheddar Man is named after Cheddar Gorge, a location in Somerset, in England, where cheddar cheese was first popularized. This suggests that the population moved from Africa through the Middle East, then across Europe and onto Britain thanks to the Doggerland land bridge, which connected the continent to the island during the time Cheddar Man was alive.

By examining the DNA of Cheddar Man (Britain's oldest complete skeleton), researchers have now provided a fascinating insight into the physical appearance of Britain's early ancestors.

To extract the DNA, researchers and scientists working on the project, had to insert a small incision into the skull by drilling into the bone.

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The Dutch model makers, Adrie and Alfons Kennis, used a hi-tech scanner to acquire the measurements for Cheddar Man's full skull, adding flesh and facial features "based on the results of the scientific research".

Their process and findings will be featured in an upcoming documentary called First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man.

Ian Barnes, says: "Cheddar Man is one of the oldest human specimens that we've worked with, and yet the preservation of DNA has been good enough to recover huge amounts of information about his appearance and ancestry". Normally it is believed that British people have a fair complexion and are mostly white people. It's always been understood that our earliest ancestors were black and that the lighter skin pigmentation present across northern Europe evolved relatively recently in human history.

Modern humans migrated to Britain around 45,000 years ago, and it had been assumed that paler skin had evolved shortly after. It was probably the advent of agriculture. "Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight".

Perhaps what's most remarkable about this Cheddar Man news is a hard truth.

The analysis also ruled out an ancestral link with individuals inhabiting Gough's Cave 5,000 years earlier, who appear to have performed grisly cannibalistic rituals, including gnawing on human toes and fingers - possibly after boiling them - and drinking from polished skull cups.

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