First Briton, ‘Cheddar Man’ had darker skin, DNA analysis

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

The first Britons who lived on the face of the Earth some 10,000 years ago had ‘black skin and blue eyes’, reveals the DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, Cheddar Man’.

The fossil of the ‘Briton’ was unearthed from Gough’s Cave in Somerset, a century ago. It was initially thought that the Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair but DNA analysis revealed that he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair. White Britons alive today are the descendants belonging to the family fo Cheddar Man.

The documentary of the DNA analysis and the complete making of the Cheddar Man has been put together as a 60-minute film which finally unveils the resultant model head of the Cheddar Man. Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis, specialists in palaeontological model making, have taken this data and combined it with physical measurements from scans of the skull.

Cheddar Man’s tribe was one of the first groups of people to move back into Britain at the end of the last Ice Age. Britain has been inhabited ever since, but the genetic makeup and consequent appearance of the population has varied considerably over this time.

Scientists believe that populations living in Europe became lighter-skinned over time because pale skin absorbs more sunlight, which is required to produce enough vitamin D. The latest findings suggest pale skin may have emerged later, possibly when the advent of farming meant people were obtaining less vitamin D though dietary sources like oily fish.

Channel 4 will broadcast The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man on Sunday 18 February.