First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA

  • First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA

First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA

The first modern humans to live in what is now the United Kingdom had "dark to black" skin and blue eyes, groundbreaking DNA research of Britain's oldest complete skeleton reveals.

In a joint project between Britain's Natural History Museum and University College London, scientists drilled a 2mm hole into the skull and extracted bone powder for analysis.

The model, which UCL and the Natural History Museum said rendered Cheddar Man's face with unprecedented accuracy, shows a man with dark skin, high cheekbones, blue eyes and coarse black hair.

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.

"This is not what I would have guessed for someone in Britain 10,000 years ago".

Scientists believe that populations living in Europe became lighter-skinned over time because pale skin absorbs more sunlight, which is required to produce enough vitamin D. The latest findings suggest pale skin may have emerged later, possibly when the advent of farming meant people were obtaining less vitamin D though dietary sources like oily fish.

"We think that we all know what we are and who we are - but actually the truth is that things have always changed and will always change", added Steven Clarke, who has made a film about the project.

Unearthed in 1903 in a cave at Cheddar Gorge, in the county of Somerset, the Mesolithic-era man was a hunter-gatherer whose ancestors migrated into Europe at the end of the last Ice Age.

The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair. All previous human populations who attempted to settle in Britain had been wiped out, and modern-day Britons are descended from the same pool of people as he was.

Model makers Adrie (L) and Alfons Kennis pose with their full face reconstruction model, made from the skull of a 10,000 year old man, known as Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest complete skeleton, during a press preview at the National History Museum in London on February 6, 2018.

However, it is only with recent developments in DNA analysis that scientists have been able to determine what Britain's oldest complete skeleton would have looked like in the flesh. This allowed for a facial reconstruction of a British man thought to have been alive about 10,000 years ago.