First Modern British Man Had 'Dark to Black' Skin, DNA Research Shows


The bones of Cheddar Man, found in 1903 in a cave in Somerset, England, tell us an very bad lot about this hunter-gatherer from many thousands of years ago.

The revelation that the first Britain had dark to black skin has provoked reactions on social media and #CheddarMan began trending on Twitter. "For years, little was known about this European ancestor, outside of his 5' 5" height and assumed death in his early 20s.

Researchers from the museum extracted DNA from the 10,000 year-old skeleton - the oldest fully preserved skeleton in the United Kingdom - and passed it to scientists at University College London (UCL), who created a facial reconstruction.

Scientists believe that populations living in Europe became lighter-skinned over time because pale skin absorbs more sunlight, which is required to produce enough Vitamin D.

It was previously thought that Cheddar Man, whose 10,000-year old remains were found in 1903 in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, would have had a lighter skin pigmentation.

Channel 4 are releasing a documentary about Cheddar Man and the reconstruction titled "First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man".

Cheddar Man's European & British profile - and Middle Eastern OriginsCheddar Man's genetic profile places him with several other Mesolithic-era Europeans whose DNA has already been analysed - individuals from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.

According to the Guardian, about 10 percent of white British ancestry can be linked to Cheddar Man's peers.

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With this data, along with the original skull, the researchers discovered that Cheddar Man not only had very dark skin, but had blue eyes, and dark, quite curly hair. However, that assumption has now been debunked.

He also goes by "Cheddar Man". He belonged to a group of hunters-gatherers coming from the Middle East and migrating to Northern Europe at the end of the last Ice Age. Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum said in a statement.

A hole measuring 2mm was drilled into the inner ear bone, and a few milligrams of the bone powder was extracted for analysis.

"It's a story all about migrations throughout history", he told Channel 4 in a documentary to be aired February 18.

Next, Dutch paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis used a 3D-printer and hi-tech scanner to render his skull in full detail.

"He is just one person, but also indicative of the population of Europe at the time", added Tom Booth, a postdoctoral researcher at the Museum.

Those who miss the show can see the skeleton in real life at the Natural History Museum's permanent Human Evolution gallery.