DNA Analysis Reveals First British Folks Had Dark Skin

DNA Analysis Reveals First British Folks Had Dark Skin

"Cheddar Man", Britain's oldest, almost complete human skeleton, had dark skin, blue eyes and dark curly hair when he lived in what is now southwest England 10,000 years ago, scientists who read his DNA have discovered. The results, announced on February 7, show that this Brit-contrary to common cultural assumptions about about the association between skin pigmentation and geographic origins-had dark brown skin and blue eyes. In other words, whiteness in Europe is a much newer thing than we thought.

Cheddar Man shows us that's not the case.

A bust of Cheddar Man, complete with shoulder-length dark hair and short facial hair, was created using 3D printing. Tom Booth, a bio-archaeologist at the museum said that Cheddar Man is special as he represents the population occupying Europe at present. "He reminds us that you can't make assumptions about what people looked like in the past based on what people look like in the present, and that the pairings of features we are used to seeing today aren't something that's fixed".

Yet research by evolution and DNA specialists at the Natural History Museum and UCL suggests that the pigmentation associated with northern European ancestry is a more recent development.

The researchers, who extracted bone powder from Cheddar Man's ancient skull to conduct the DNA analysis, said their study offers insights into the origins of the Stone Age man.

Unearthed over a century ago in Gough's Cave in Somerset, Cheddar Man is believed to have lived in what is now called Britain some 10,000 years ago. However, the cool conditions of Gough Cave were excellent for keeping the DNA intact.

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Complete with dark brown or black skin, blue eyes, and curly, dark-brown hair, he's likely the distant relative of migrating hunter-gatherers.

The reconstructed bust shows an early human that looks similar in appearance to Palaeolithic Africans.

Around 10 percent of the British population shares DNA with the Mesolithic population to which the Cheddar Man belonged, but they aren't direct descendents.

"It has always changed and will change", he emphasized.

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. Some experts have suggested that ancient humans in more temperate regions were exposed to less sunlight, and therefore evolved to have lighter skin, which absorbs more ultraviolet radiation ― necessary for the production of vitamin D.