Monday, 18 June, 2018

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

Full facial reconstruction model of a head based on the skull of Britains oldest complete skeleton on display during a screening event in London Wednesday Feb. 7 2018 'Cheddar Man,' Britain's Oldest Skeleton, Had Dark Skin, DNA Shows
Judith Alexander | 09 February, 2018, 05:36

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.

Researchers Professor Barnes and Dr. Selina Brace were able to take DNA data from Cheddar Man's bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through his skull's inner ear bone. Cheddar Man's genome shows that Europeans didn't develop pale skin until a few thousand years ago, rather than tens of thousands of years ago when humans first migrated west onto the European continent.

Nicknamed Cheddar Man, the young man's skeleton was found in 1903 in Gough's Cave in Somerset.

Speaking on RTÉ Morning Ireland, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Dan Bradley, said his team have made similar findings about early Irish people.

A sample pulled from bone dust extracted from Cheddar Man's skull provided scientists with a full genome that enabled them to reconstruct the shape of Cheddar Man's face as well as discover the colour of his skin, eyes and hair. 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. "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", Bradley said.

He said their findings suggest the DNA is linked to individuals from Spain and Luxembourg, people who populated western European after the last Ice Age but before the farming era.

His ancestors migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the Ice Age and today, 10% of White British people are descended from the group. Cheddar Man is believed to have been a hunter-gatherer during the Mesolithic period.

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"Cheddar Man subverts people's expectations of what kinds of genetic traits go together", said Booth.

The results also highlight the differing thought on where Cheddar Man originated from.

It took close to three months to build the model, with its makers using a high-tech scanner which had been designed for the International Space Station.

They scanned the skull and a 3D model was produced by "paleo artists" Alfons and Adrie Kennis, who make life-like reconstructions of extinct mammals and early humans.

It maybe gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. "We are all immigrants".

A documentary describing the research, First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man, is due to air on UK's Channel 4 next week.

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