Landmark Early Briton Had Dark Skin, New Study Reveals


Selina Brace, a researcher of ancient DNA at the museum, said the cave environment Cheddar Man was found in helped preserve his remains.

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.

Researchers from London's Natural History Museum extracted DNA from the Stone Age skeleton, named "Cheddar Man" which was discovered in 1903, and University College London (UCL) researchers then used genome analysis for a facial reconstruction.

The findings were revealed Monday ahead of a documentary, The First Brit: Secrets Of The 10,000-year-old Man, which tracked the DNA project and sponsored a reconstruction of Cheddar Man's head.

The skeleton's genetic profile places him among the Mesolithic-era Europeans and describes him as a "Western Hunter-Gatherer". Today, about 10 percent of British ancestry can be linked to that population. However, that assumption has now been debunked. Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum said in a statement. A bust of Cheddar Man, complete with shoulder-length dark hair and short facial hair, was created using 3D printing.It took close to three months to build the model, with its makers using a high-tech scanner which had been designed for the International Space Station.

"To go beyond what the bones tell us and get a scientifically-based picture of what he actually looked like is a remarkable and surprising achievement".

The skull of Cheddar Man
The skull of Cheddar Man Channel 4

Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum said that the finding "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".

To perform the DNA analysis, scientists obtained a small amount of bone powder by drilling into Cheddar Man's skull.

The resulting information was then passed to Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis, who specialise in palaeontological model making.

As the Guardian reports, settlers used to clear out periodically during ice ages and when the last cold period ended, Cheddar Man's ancestors might have reached Europe, starting continuous inhabitation of the region.

The Cheddar Man's skeletal remains are now kept on loan at the Natural History Museum in London, in the Human Evolution Gallery, while a replica set sit in the cave in Somerset.

"What brings a lot of character to a person is the fullness of the lips, the shape of the nostrils, the shape of the tip of the nose, the folds of the eyes-and you can't know this", he told Britain's Channel 4.

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