Landmark Early Briton Had Dark Skin, New Study Reveals
Landmark Early Briton Had Dark Skin, New Study Reveals
This is the face of oldest complete skeleton ever found in the UK
07 February, 2018, 15:56
The analysis of a tiny sample of ground-up skull bone revealed that the 12,000 year old man it belonged to had completely different features to the pale skin and light hair that the researchers had expected.
These settlers would have arrived in the United Kingdom, via Europe, from the Middle East at the end of the last ice age and been the first modern Britons.
But how did they manage to recreate the ancient human's face so accurately?
A Briton from 10,000 years ago had blue eyes, dark coloured curly hair and "dark to black" skin pigmentation, shows DNA analysis of Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest almost complete skeleton.
"This is not what I would have guessed for someone in Britain 10,000 years ago".
Professor Chris Stringer, the Natural History Museum's research leader in human origins, told BBC reporters that he had been "studying the skeleton of Cheddar Man for about 40 years".
Researchers think that European people became lighter-skinned over time as pale skin absorbs more sunlight - a necessity in the continent's mostly temperate climate. However, Cheddar Man had "ancestral" versions of all these genes, strongly suggesting he would have had "dark to black" skin tone, but combined with blue eyes.
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There were previous populations of people in Britain dating back much earlier than Cheddar Man but they had all been wiped out.
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.
Experts from University CollegeLondon (UCL) and the Natural History Museum built a portrait of life in Mesolithic Britain, around 300 generations ago, using DNA from Britain's oldest complete skeleton, which was discovered in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, in 1903.
Cheddar Man, who died in his 20s about 9,000 years ago, has been described as the first modern Briton as he marked the start of continuous habitation of the island.
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 United Kingdom and one of the museum's most treasured specimens.
Scientists were able to remove a full genome of Cheddar Man's DNA by drilling a 2mm-diameter hole into the ancient man's skull and obtaining a few milligrams of bone powder. But the new analysis suggests that he instead had blue eyes, a very dark skin complexion and dark curly hair, the Guardian has reported.
Model makers took this information and created a facial model of him.
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