Oldest-Known Briton 'Cheddar Man' Wasn't Fair-Skinned After All


Cheddar Man is the oldest skeleton found in Britain, and DNA analysis of his body has revealed that he had dark to black skin, coarse black hair and blue eyes.

Cheddar Man - who had previously been portrayed as having brown eyes and light skin - was among the first permanent settlers to make the United Kingdom their home, and is related to around 10 percent of the modern population there. Since then, scientists have worked hard to predict what he might look like, all the while reconstructing "Cheddar Man".

A new project from London's Natural History Museum and University College London has revealed groundbreaking DNA results that give a much clearer image of early British inhabitants.

A documentary describing the research, First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man, is due to air on UK's Channel 4 next week.

Britain's oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough's Cave in Somerset.

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

Scientists extracted the DNA by drilling a hole into his skull and drawing out bone powder, with subsequent findings suggesting that light-skinned Europeans evolved later than previously thought. 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.

To achieve realistic facial reconstruction objectives, identical twin brothers (adding to the genetic irony) Alfons and Adrie Kennis first scanned the skull to make a working 3D model.

Jess Gofton tweeted: "If 1 in 10 of us are related to #cheddarman, does that mean we're all Mini Cheddars?"

"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. It is now believed that the Cheddar man came to Britain from Africa via the Middle East.

The Cheddar man had actually a dark to black skin and instead of having brown eyes, he actually had blue eyes. The current, very light skin we have in Ireland now is at the endpoint of thousands of years of surviving in a climate where there's very little sun.

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.