Published: Thu, February 08, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

New Research Reveals Britain's Oldest Ancestor Had Dark Skin and Blue Eyes

New Research Reveals Britain's Oldest Ancestor Had Dark Skin and Blue Eyes

Alfons cautioned that this reconstruction was not a flawless portrait, but rather a broad idea of how Cheddar Man might have looked.

The 10,000-year-old skeleton of "Cheddar Man", the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain, recently became a bit less mysterious. Scientists call it the chemical of life.

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.

Professors looking at Cheddar Man in detail.

Prof Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, first excavated at Gough's Cave 30 years ago.

The findings were revealed Monday ahead of a documentary, The First Brit: Secrets Of The 10,000-year-old Man, which tracked the DNA project and sponsored a reconstruction of Cheddar Man's head.

Thomas and a fellow professor, Yoan Diekmann, used DNA sequencing techniques to determine his appearance. Now, as Paul Rincon of the BBC reports, genome analysis has revealed that Cheddar Man had dark brown skin and blue eyes-a discovery that adds to a growing body of research indicating that the evolution of human skin color was far more complex than previously believed.

Cheddar Man's European & British profile - and Middle Eastern OriginsCheddar Man's genetic profile places him with several other Mesolithic-era Europeans whose DNA has already been analysed - individuals from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg. Cheddar Man was said to have lived after settlers moved from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the ice age.

To collect a small amount of the skeleton's bone powder, scientists from The Natural History Museum first drilled a 2mm wide hole into the ancient skull.

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.

Leon Troake, operations manager at Cheddar Gorge & Caves, said: "The latest findings are fascinating".

He would have lived around 300 generations ago in the area - with some believing he still has ancestors living in Somerset.

"To extract ancient DNA from a human or animal what you're looking for is a dense bone which might have protected the DNA inside it as much as possible", said Selina Brace, a DNA expert at the Museum.

"Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight", said researcher Tom Booth. That is what the reconstruction of Cheddar Man has concluded, the skeleton was discovered in the cave of the same name in the southwestern part of England.

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