Scientists reveal 10,000-year-old British man had dark skin and blue eyes


Meet ‘Cheddar Man’.

Image: the trustees of the natural history museum, london

The face of a 10,000-year-old British skeleton nicknamed “Cheddar Man” has been revealed after research carried out by a team of scientists at London’s Natural History Museum.

The team, which specialises in evolution and DNA, worked with model-makers and professors at University College London to build a picture of what the man behind the skeleton would actually have looked like. It was found in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset back in 1903, hence the name.

Here’s the skull of Cheddar Man:

Part of Cheddar Man's skeleton, found in some caves in the UK over a century ago.

Part of Cheddar Man’s skeleton, found in some caves in the UK over a century ago.

Image: the trustees of the natural history museum, london

And here’s the reconstruction:

Scientists found that Cheddar Man would have had a darker skin pigmentation than previously suspected.

Scientists found that Cheddar Man would have had a darker skin pigmentation than previously suspected.

Image: the trustees of the natural history museum, london

“Cheddar Man is one of the oldest human specimens that we’ve worked with, and yet the preservation of DNA has been good enough to recover huge amounts of information about his appearance and ancestry,” said Professor Ian Barnes, Research Leader in Ancient DNA at the Natural History Museum, in a press release sent to Mashable.

The method used to recreate Cheddar Man’s face is pretty complicated and science-y, but in a nutshell it went something like this: scientists obtained some bone powder by drilling into the skull, which contained enough genetic info to allow them to reconstruct the face; 3D printing technology was then used to construct the head pictured above.

“I first studied ‘Cheddar Man’ more than 40 years ago, but could never have believed that we would one day have his whole genome – the oldest British one to date!” said Professor Chris Tringer, Research Lead in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum. 

“To go beyond what the bones tell us and get a scientifically-based picture of what he actually looked like is a remarkable (and from the results quite surprising!) achievement.”

Channel 4 are releasing a documentary about Cheddar Man and the reconstruction titled ‘First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man’. It airs Sunday 18 February.

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