Turns Out The First British People Were Actually Black

Cheddar Man

The 10,000-year-old human remains dubbed the "Cheddar Man" - named after the area in southwest England they were found - revealed a wealth of information this week, most notably that he likely had dark skin and 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.

"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.

This puts the owner of the skeleton at around the same time as the last wave of migrations following the Ice Age, which saw early humans coming to Europe and eventually, Britain.

"Cheddar Man had blue eyes, dark colored curly hair and "dark to black" skin pigmentation".

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

What this means is that the genes for lighter skin appeared in Europe far later than originally thought. While Britain was populated and abandoned by humans during earlier periods, archaeologists think that humans lived on the island continuously from Cheddar Man's time through to present day.

To reach this conclusion, researchers extracted DNA from the bone powder in the skeleton's skull.

Calling the DNA findings "revolutionary", Alfons Kennis said: "People will be surprised...and maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere".

We know from other archaeological research that he was a hunter-gatherer, and during his life he would have eaten seeds, nuts, red deer, wild aurochs, and freshwater fish. The ability to absorb more of it helps people at higher latitudes - who see less sunlight than people in equatorial regions - avoid vitamin D deficiency.

No prehistoric Briton of the age of Cheddar Man had previously had their genome analysed.

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 in his 20s when he died, according to the Natural History Museum, though his cause of death is unknown.

He's called the Cheddar Man, because his remains were found in 1903 in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

Using facial reconstruction analysis and the latest 3D-printing technology, the scientists were also able to produce a reasonable representation of "Cheddar Man" as he would have looked.

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