Cheddar Man proves that lily-white Britons idea is cheese
The first British people were black-skinned and blue-eyed
The earliest Britons were black-skinned, with dark curly hair and possibly blue eyes, new analysis of a 10,000-year-old skeleton has revealed.
Scientists at the Natural History Museum have used pioneering genetic sequencing and facial reconstruction techniques to prove that the first hunter-gatherers to inhabit Britain successfully were far darker in complexion than previously thought.The groundbreaking discovery was made in a “stroke of luck” after archaeologists found scraps of DNA in the ear of the Mesolithic “Cheddar Man”, the oldest complete skeleton found in the UK and one of the museum’s most treasured specimens.
They cross-referenced the genomes of modern inhabitants of Cheddar, near Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, where the remains were discovered in 1903, as well as other fossils from across Europe.
The results show, contrary to popular belief, that the founding generations of Britons owed more in appearance to Paleolithic Africans, from whom all humans descend. Last night scientists said they show that commonly used racial categories are historically only “recent constructions”.
Up to nine previous colonisations of Britain, via a European land bridge known as Doggerland, had been wiped out due to harsh temperatures.But the humans of the roughly 12,000-strong Cheddar Man age thrived, and their DNA now comprises roughly 10% of the genetic make-up of most white people living in the UK. They lived mainly in tents made from animal skins and preyed on animals such as deer and wild boar using hunting dogs and bows and arrows.
Dr Yoan Dieckmann from University College London, who took part in the project, said: “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. It has always changed and will change.”Archaeologists already knew Cheddar Man was about 165cm, around 64kg and with good teeth, and that he died in his early 20s.
But genetic sequencing that would have been impossible just 10 years ago has now allowed them to determine the colour of his skin, eyes and hair.
“The combination of quite dark skin and blue eyes is something that we don’t imagine is typical, but that was the real appearance of these people, something that’s quite rare today,” said Professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum.
— © The Daily Telegraph