Why is the first modern Briton called Cheddar Man?

Face of first Brit revealed - UCL

The first modern Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, London scientists said on Wednesday, following groundbreaking DNA analysis of the remains of a man who lived 10,000 years ago.

Cheddar Man - who had previously been portrayed as having brown eyes and light skin - was among the first permanent settlers to make the United Kingdom their home, and is related to around 10 percent of the modern population there. In doing so, they were able to remove a complete genome which provided accurate details on Cheddar Man's appearance.

"It is very surprising that a Brit 10,000 years ago could have that combination of very blue eyes but really dark skin", said the museum's Chris Stringer, who for the past decade has analysed the bones of people found in the cave.

To extract the DNA, researchers and scientists working on the project, had to insert a small incision into the skull by drilling into the bone. While Britain was populated and abandoned by humans during earlier periods, archaeologists think that humans lived on the island continuously from Cheddar Man's time through to present day.

The oldest nearly-complete skeleton found in Britain, at Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, southwest England, was first encountered in a cave, all the way back in 1903. Data and software used in forensics gave a clearer understanding of Cheddar Man's skin pigmentation.

To achieve realistic facial reconstruction objectives, identical twin brothers (adding to the genetic irony) Alfons and Adrie Kennis first scanned the skull to make a working 3D model. 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. Normally it is believed that British people have a fair complexion and are mostly white people.

"It has always changed and will change", he emphasized. Perhaps because they weren't eating as much vitamin D-rich protein such as fish, humans adapted to the cloudier environments of areas such as Britain and Scandinavia by developing lighter skin that could help them produce more vitamin D. Skin colour, in other words, is just as much the result of changing conditions and lifestyle as it was migrating from one part of the world to another.

His ancestors had originally migrated to Europe from the Middle East. The current, very light skin we have in Ireland now is at the endpoint of thousands of years of surviving in a climate where there's very little sun.

A previous attempt to reconstruct the face of the Cheddar Man.

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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