Ancient Briton Had Dark Skin, Blue Eyes

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February 8, 2018

People who lived 10,000 years ago in what is now the United Kingdom had dark brown skin and blue eyes, according to new DNA analysis of the country's oldest complete skeleton. The remains, discovered in 1903, have been dubbed Cheddar Man because of where they were discovered: in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

Examination of the bones and DNA had previously revealed that the man was 5 foot, 5 inches tall and in his early 20s when he died, possibly violently, from blows to the head that resulted in fractures to the skull. The skeleton has been on display at the National History Museum in London. A replica rests where the original was found, in Gough's Cave.

Cheddar Man facial reconstruction

The DNA of Cheddar Man was intact; and scientists from the National History Museum and from University College London, after extracting a few tiny amounts of bone powder from the skull, have found in the still-intact full genome variants associated with color of eye, hair, and skin, suggesting the dark skin and hair and blue eyes. The results can be seen in a striking facial reconstruction.

They have also found links to other Mesolithic individuals, named Western Hunter-Gatherers. Other researchers have analyzed similar remains from Hungary, Luxembourg, and Spain.

Cheddar Man skeleton recreation

Cheddar Man would have been part of a migration of people who walked from Europe across a landmass called Doggerland 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.

The results of the DNA analysis are significant today because descendants of people like Cheddar Man living in the U.K. have much lighter-colored skin.

It was not the first genetic test on Cheddar Man's DNA. Testing a few years ago revealed that a descendant was a teacher at a school a half mile away from the burial site.

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