DNA suggests ancient Brit had dark skin, blue eyes
DNA suggests ancient Brit had dark skin, blue eyes
DNA shows first modern Briton had dark skin, blue eyes
08 February, 2018, 10:00
A group of scientists from the LondonNatural History Museums carried out the work of reconstructing the face. Given the location of his remains and the time period in which he had died, Cheddar Man gives scientists clues about what the earliest inhabitants in Britain may have looked like, and it's not what some had expected. These temporary visitors came during an ice-age thaw, but were driven out - like all previous humans in Britain - when temperatures dropped again.
The fossil was initially assumed to have pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture.
In research that may raise eyebrows among modern-day white nationalists, scientists used DNA analysis from Britain's oldest almost complete skeleton to reveal he had dark skin and blue eyes.
A study published last year added another wrinkle to the complex history of human skin color, revealing that certain genetic variants associated with light skin developed more than 900,000 years ago-before Homo sapiens evolved.
"He is just one person, but also indicative of the population of Europe at the time", says Dr Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the museum who worked on the project.
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Scientists obtained DNA from Cheddar Man by drilling a 2-millimeter hole in his skull and extracting bone powder. Despite his name, Cheddar Man would have been unable to digest milk as an adult. Following ancient humans migration pattern, it can be seen how they ended up in Britain.
The results suggest that his ancestors left Africa for the Middle East, later went to Europe, and crossed the ancient land bridge called Doggerland which connected Britain to continental Europe. Some far-right types have gone to great lengths to prove their white European ancestry, even being disappointed when the results didn't match their prejudices - and this new historical evidence simply makes the (scientifically illiterate) argument about indigenous populations being displaced look even shakier. Data and software used in forensics gave Booth and the team a clearer understanding of Cheddar Man's skin pigmentation and how dark it was.
Next, Dutch paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis used a 3D-printer and hi-tech scanner to render his skull in full detail.
Using pioneering genetic sequencing and facial reconstruction techniques, researchers were able to cross-reference DNA/genomes extracted from the ancient skeleton and construct a modern image of his outward appearance. According to Chris Stringer, director of the research department of the LondonNatural History Museum, many would be surprised by the look of their ancestor.
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