First Briton, 'Cheddar Man' had darker skin, DNA analysis

Analysis of 10000-year-old DNA finds first modern Brits had dark skin, blue eyes

Prof Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, first excavated at Gough's Cave 30 years ago, said: "I first studied "Cheddar Man" more than 40 years ago, but could never have believed that we would one day have his whole genome - the oldest British one to date!"

Cutting-edge DNA analysis of the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain has revealed that the first modern humans living on the territory had "dark to black skin". The research reveals he had much darker features than was previously assumed, which has implications for our understanding of how lighter pigmentation spread through Europe.

But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows that the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.

Cheddar Man's skeleton was discovered in 1903 in Gough's Cave, located in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset.

He lived around 10,000 years ago, after his hunting and gathering ancestors migrated to Europe at the end of the last Ice Age, a time when Britain was attached to continental Europe.

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Researchers from London's Natural History Museum and University College London have recently engaged in a study that re-analyzed the Cheddar Man's remains, in order to better understand what he would have looked like.

According to the Museum, modern British people share about 10 percent of their DNA with the population to which Cheddar Man belonged, which means that, if you're British, you can proudly say, "We are all Cheddar Man". "So all of this combines together and make him just not the same as people you see around today". The team drilled a 2 mm hole into his skull to gather bone powder from the petrous bone, the densest bone in the human body and therefore especially good at safeguarding the ancient DNA.

Calling the DNA findings "revolutionary", Alfons Kennis said: "People will be surprised...and maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere".

His arrival marked the start of continuous population in Britain, with previous populations having been wiped out before him. "These "Western Hunter-Gatherer's" migrated into Europe at the end of the last ice age and the group included Cheddar Man's ancestors", explained Professor Thomas.

"It's a story all about migrations throughout history", he told Channel 4 in a documentary to be aired on February 18. "We are all immigrants".

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