Monday, 20 August, 2018

DNA suggests 10000-year-old Brit had dark skin, blue eyes

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     CAST FROM THE PAST Adrie and Alfons Kennis with their model PA CAST FROM THE PAST Adrie and Alfons Kennis with their model
Theresa Hayes | 07 February, 2018, 15:33

The model, which UCL and the Natural History Museum said rendered Cheddar Man's face with unprecedented accuracy, shows a man with dark skin, high cheekbones, blue eyes and coarse black hair.

The groundbreaking discovery was made in a "stroke of luck" after archaeologists found scraps of DNA in the ear of the Mesolithic "Cheddar Man", the oldest complete skeleton found in the United Kingdom and one of the museum's most treasured specimens.

Previous research and reconstructions suggested Cheddar Man had a lighter skin tone but following groundbreaking research carried out by London's Natural History Museum Evolution specialists and University College London (UCL) suggests he had dark skin, an nearly black complexion.

A "Western Hunter-Gatherer" hailing from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg, one in ten British people today will share Cheddar Man's genes.

The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair.

The research on the Mesolithic fossil undermines the commonly held assumption that a people's geographical origin is a determinant of skin color and physique.

"We think that we all know what we are and who we are - but actually the truth is that things have always changed and will always change", added Steven Clarke, who has made a film about the project.

Selina Brace, a researcher of ancient DNA at the museum, said the cave environment Cheddar Man was found in helped preserve his remains. From this a full genome was obtained, allowing insights into the man's appearance and lifestyle.

Results reveal a Middle Eastern origin for Cheddar Man, whose contemporaries are thought to have crossed an ancient land bridge connecting continental Europe with Britain. According to The Guardian, 10 percent of Britain's population belong to the aforementioned group.

The analysis also ruled out an ancestral link with individuals inhabiting Gough's Cave 5,000 years earlier, who appear to have performed grisly cannibalistic rituals, including gnawing on human toes and fingers - possibly after boiling them - and drinking from polished skull cups.

But scientists now believe lighter skin came about much more recently.

A further investigation by Tom Booth - an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum along with a team assigned to the project uncovered the deeper truth of Cheddar Man's lineage.