DNA shows first modern Briton had dark skin, blue eyes

DNA shows first modern Briton had dark skin blue eyes

"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 Cheddar man had actually a dark to black skin and instead of having brown eyes, he actually had blue eyes. In other words, whiteness in Europe is a much newer thing than we thought.

In terms of diet, they would have lived off the land, eaten a considerable amount of fish and hunted wild boar.

Cheddar Man, thought to have died in his twenties and have had a relatively good diet, lived in Britain when it was nearly completely depopulated. It's always been understood that our earliest ancestors were black and that the lighter skin pigmentation present across northern Europe evolved relatively recently in human history.

Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, 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".

Professor Ian Barnes, research leader at the Natural History Museum, said at a screening of the documentary: "For me, it's not just the skin colour that's interesting, it's that combination of features that make him look not like anyone that you'd see today".

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To extract the DNA, researchers and scientists working on the project, had to insert a small incision into the skull by drilling into the bone. However, the cool conditions of Gough Cave were excellent for keeping the DNA intact.

However, Cheddar Man has the genetic markers of skin pigmentation usually associated with sub-Saharan Africa.

Dutch Paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis discuss creating the remarkable face of Cheddar Man for forthcoming Channel 4 doc.

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

Similarly, Cheddar Man's tribe migrated to Britain at the end of the last Ice Age and his DNA has been linked to individuals discovered in modern-day Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg. The genetic material was remarkably well preserved, which the team attributes to the fact that Cheddar Man was in a cave for so long.

"The historical perspective that you get just tells you that things change, things are in flux, and what may seem as a cemented truth, that people feel the British should have white skin through time, is not at all something that is an immutable truth", Dr Yoan Dieckmann, a University College London who participated in the study, told the press.

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