First modern Britons had dark skin, blue eyes, DNA analysis reveals

Full facial reconstruction model of a head based on the skull of Britain's oldest complete skeleton on display during a screening event of The First Brit Secrets Of The 10,000 Year Old Man at The Natural History Museum in London

First modern Britons had dark skin, blue eyes, DNA analysis reveals

Radiocarbon dating has since shown he lived and died about 10,000 years ago - much more recent than even some of the other cannibalized remains found in the very same cave in Somerset. A detailed DNA analysis of a fossil named "Cheddar Man" concluded the findings.

Professor Mark Thomas and Dr Yoan Diekmann (both UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) then analysed Cheddar Man's DNA sequences to establish aspects of his appearance.

Researchers from the museum extracted DNA from the 10,000 year-old skeleton - the oldest fully preserved skeleton in the United Kingdom - and passed it to scientists at University College London (UCL), who created a facial reconstruction.

Until recently, it was assumed that humans adapted to have paler skin shortly after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago.

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A Natural History Museum spokesman said: "Only now with world-leading research, cutting-edge DNA and facial reconstruction can we see for the first time the face of this 10,000-year-old man and ask how 300 generations later he relates to us".

The bones of "Cheddar Man" were discovered in 1903, and some suspected this was the long-sought-after "first Briton", perhaps dating from the absolute beginnings of Homo sapiens in Europe.

The skeleton's genetic profile places him among the Mesolithic-era Europeans and describes him as a "Western Hunter-Gatherer". Notably, almost 10% of current indigenous British population descended from the same ancient population. The striking new reconstruction stands in stark contrast to the initial estimates which suggested Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair. However, that assumption has now been debunked.

The researchers say the evidence suggests that Europeans' light skin coloring developed much later than experts had thought.

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To give structure to the reconstruction, Channel 4 and the Museum hired the Dutch brothers Adrie and Alfons Kennis to do a three-dimensional model based off the skull measurements. Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum said in a statement.

Researchers Ian Barnes and Selina Brace drilled a two-millimeter hole into Cheddar Man's skull and extracted a few milligrams of the powder for analysis.

The research and remodeling process will be chronicled in an upcoming documentary, The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 year old man, which will air on the UK's Channel 4.

Mr Alfons Kennis said the DNA findings were "revolutionary".

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As the Guardian reports, settlers used to clear out periodically during ice ages and when the last cold period ended, Cheddar Man's ancestors might have reached Europe, starting continuous inhabitation of the region.

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