Scientists say earliest Britons had dark skin

Skeleton, termed ‘Cheddar Man’, dates back 10,000 years, before mutations for light skin had occurred.

Cheddar Man
Cheddar Man's characteristics were reconstructed using DNA analysis and 3D-scanning [University College London/Channel 4]

The oldest human remains found in the UK belonged to a man with dark skin and blue eyes, a study by scientists in the UK has found.

Researchers at University College London and the British Natural History Museum reconstructed how the man, who lived 10,000 years ago, would have looked using the latest DNA analysis techniques and 3D-scanning of his skull.

Known as “Cheddar Man” after the southern English village where he was found in 1903, the man had “dark to black skin” and dark curly hair, according to the researchers.

DNA was recovered from the man’s skull and information about his physical characteristics was obtained by mapping the genetic data collected. 

DNA had been preserved inside Cheddar Man's skull [University College London/Channel 4]
DNA had been preserved inside Cheddar Man’s skull [University College London/Channel 4]

Genetic information is usually difficult to obtain in remains as old as Cheddar Man but had been preserved in his case thanks to the cool conditions inside the limestone cave where he was found. 

“I first studied ‘Cheddar Man’ more than 40 years ago, but could never have believed that we would one day have his whole genome – the oldest British one to date,” said Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.

“To go beyond what the bones tell us and get a scientifically -based picture of what he actually looked like is a remarkable – and from the results quite surprising – achievement.”

The scientists involved in the study explained that Cheddar Man’s ancestors were part of a population that travelled out of the Middle East and then on to Europe.

At least 10 percent of British ancestry can be linked to that population, they said.

A documentary on the findings will air on the UK’s Channel 4 TV station on February 18.

Previous studies have indicated that genes responsible for lighter features common in people of European descent developed at some over 8,000 years ago.

Source: Al Jazeera