When a team of scientists used cutting-edge technology to sequence the DNA genome of Britain’s oldest and nearly complete skeleton, they were baffled by their findings. The skeletal remains, or Cheddar Man as scientists named him, is believed to be the earliest Briton who lived about 10,000 years ago. Cheddar Man was excavated in 1903 in Gough’s Cave at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.
Contrary to expectations, Cheddar Man had dark to black skin pigmentation while his hair was dark and curly. In addition, Cheddar Man had other features that were equally surprising. For instance, scientists found that he had blue eyes and was possibly a hunter-gatherer.
Despite the scientific breakthrough, it boggles the mind that the oldest clue we have of early Britons is by today’s definition that of Sub-Saharan Africans.
In their quest to answer pigmentation as a defining feature of Northern Europeans, scientists say that this is merely a recent phenomenon. Thanks to Cheddar Man, we now have a better understanding of the early settlers of Northern Europe.
Scientists now believe as many as 10% of Indigenous British people can link their ancestry to Cheddar Man and the people who lived at that time.
Although the London Natural History Museum kept the remains for over one hundred years, scientists wrestled with different theories to explain where the Cheddar man came from or what he looked like. Explaining these answers was essential to scientists as they would provide insights into Britain’s early ancestors.
Because of modern technology, we now know what Cheddar Man looked like, how he lived, and what he ate. His diet included seeds and nuts. He also loved to eat meat such as deer, freshwater fished, and the now-extinct cattle species Aurochs.
Do you think skin pigmentation mattered less to our ancestors than modern society?