Oldest Known Briton Cheddar Man Had Dark Skin, Blue Eyes

Oldest Known Briton Cheddar Man Had Dark Skin, Blue Eyes

Oldest Known Briton Cheddar Man Had Dark Skin, Blue Eyes

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.

However, in-depth examination of the DNA data and facial reconstruction of the fossil, showed that Cheddar Man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.

"The earliest Irish would have been the same as Cheddar Man and would have had darker skin than we have today", Prof Bradley said.

"It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all", Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, told The Guardian.

A Channel 4 documentary following the reconstruction of Cheddar Man - The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000-Year-Old Man - airs on Sunday 18 February.

Cheddar Man was unearthed in 1903 in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, and has been the topic of constant mystery and intrigue.

The latest research was carried by a group of scientists from the University College London and London's Natural History Museum. Cheddar Man's genome shows that Europeans didn't develop pale skin until a few thousand years ago, rather than tens of thousands of years ago when humans first migrated west onto the European continent.

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Alfons Kennis, who made the bust with his brother Adrie, said the DNA findings were "revolutionary". It's believed that the Cheddar Man was among the earliest immigrants to the British Isles, back when there was possibly still a narrow land bridge from neighboring France. The genetic material was remarkably well preserved, which the team attributes to the fact that Cheddar Man was in a cave for so long. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

Cheddar Man and his people probably left Africa and passed through the Middle East before winding up in what is now Britain.

"Until recently it was always assumed that humans quickly adapted to have paler skin after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago", explains Bloom, the Natural History Museum researcher.

"Not just dark skin and blue eyes, because you can get that combination, but also the face shape".

Cheddar Man would have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, making sharp blades from flints for butchering animals, using antlers to whittle harpoons for spear fishing and carving bows and arrows. "The current, very light skin we have in Ireland is at the endpoint of thousands of years of surviving in a climate where there's very little sun", Bradley said.

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

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