Pioneering research reveals what first modern Briton looked like

Face of first Brit revealed - UCL

"Cheddar Man", Britain's oldest, almost complete human skeleton, had dark skin, blue eyes and dark curly hair when he lived in what is now southwest England 10,000 years ago, scientists who read his DNA have discovered.

The results indicate that Cheddar Man had blue eyes, dark coloured curly hair and "dark to black" skin pigmentation.

Tottenham MP David Lammy, who is black, said knowing of the existence of Cheddar Man would have helped him to deal with hard questions when he was younger.

A new project from London's Natural History Museum and University College London has revealed groundbreaking DNA results that give a much clearer image of early British inhabitants.

Their process and findings will be featured in an upcoming documentary called First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man.

Researchers Professor Barnes and Dr Selina Brace from the Natural History Museum and University College London extracted DNA data from bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull's inner ear bone. Tom Booth, a bio-archaeologist at the museum said that Cheddar Man is special as he represents the population occupying Europe at present.

The skeleton itself is the oldest almost complete human skeleton ever discovered in Britain, though it's been studied for over a century after being unearthed in 1903. It's always been understood that our earliest ancestors were black and that the lighter skin pigmentation present across northern Europe evolved relatively recently in human history.

Then, a pair of Dutch artists who are experts in paleontology model making, Alfons and Adrie Kennis, used a high-tech scanner to make a three-dimensional model of Cheddar Man's head. Scientists say that DNA from the Cheddar Man population can be linked to about 10 per cent of the genetic make-up of modern Europeans.

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 today. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population. The Cheddar Man is around a thousand years old at this point, dating back to the period immediately after Ice Age and a time when Britain was a very different place.

The research indicated that the lighter skin characteristic of modern Europeans is recent. "Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight".

The Cheddar man had actually a dark to black skin and instead of having brown eyes, he actually had blue eyes.

Proof of this, interestingly, can be found in earlier reconstructions of Cheddar Man that reveal an emphasis on perhaps forcing a modern Eurocentric narrative.

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