Although the Cheddar Man has the genetic markers of skin pigmentation usually found in sub-Saharan Africa, the result is consistent with other Mesolithic human remains found throughout Europe.
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.
A DNA sample from a 10,000-year-old skeleton discovered in Gough Cave near Cheddar Gorge, England, offers a remarkable revelation: The first modern British people had "dark brown to black skin".
The discovery suggests that the lighter pigmentation now considered to be a defining feature of northern Europe is a far more recent phenomenon.
But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows that the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.
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Just last month, researchers concluded, after having discovered human remains in Israel, that people trekked out of Africa nearly 200,000 years ago, twice as early as originally thought. "It is very surprising that a Brit 10,000 years ago could have that combination of very blue eyes but really dark skin", said Chris Stringer of Natural history Museum. "So all of this combines together and make him just not the same as people you see around today". Scientist extracted the DNA from the bone powder of Cheddar Man by drilling a 2-millimeter hole in his skull.
"It's really nice to make a more graceful man, not a heavy-browed Neanderthal. We were very interested in what kind of human he was", said Alfons. "And it allowed us to look more at race, this revealed stuff that we'd never had known before".
His arrival marked the start of continuous population in Britain, with previous populations having been wiped out before him.
Similarly, Cheddar Man's tribe migrated to Britain at the end of the last Ice Age and his DNA has been linked to individuals discovered in modern-day Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg. And maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. "We are all immigrants", he added.
A Channel 4 documentary following the reconstruction of Cheddar Man - The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000-Year-Old Man - airs on Sunday 18 February.