Cheddar Man Reveals The Face Of Ancient Britons


Cheddar Man, the 10,000-year-old skeleton of ancient Briton found in Somerset, England, had his face revealed. A group of scientists from the London Natural History Museums carried out the work of reconstructing the face.

Cheddar Man was found in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset more than a century ago in 1903.

Ancient Genome

Cheddar Man died about 10,000 years ago, during the time when the first settlers arrived from mainland Europe to Britain. This was at the end of the last ice age. The most noticeable difference between Cheddar Man and modern British people is that the former has a darker skin tone.

Upon discovering the fossil, it was thought that his appearance would have fair hair and pale skin. After the DNA analysis on the remains was done it was revealed that he actually had blue eyes, a dark skin complexion, and dark curly hair.

This shows that the genes for light skin became widespread in Europe later than previously believed. This discovery shows that skin color doesn't dictate geographic origin.

Racial categories come under attack with these findings and show that people just started differentiating each other recently.

"It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions or very recent constructions, that really [is] not applicable to the past at all," said Tom Booth, an archaeologist from the Natural History Museum who worked on the reconstruction.

To extract Cheddar Man's entire genome, a 2mm hole had to be drilled into the skull to collect bone powder. By sequencing the genome, they were able to get details about his life like the appearance and lifestyle of the man.

Results show that Cheddar Man originally came from the Middle East. This shows the path that Cheddar Man used to get to Britain. Following ancient humans migration pattern, it can be seen how they ended up in Britain. They started in Africa then headed to the Middle East, and eventually made their way into Europe before crossing the ancient land bridge called Doggerland into Britain.

To find Cheddar Man's appearance, the team used genes that are linked to skin color, hair color and texture, and eye color. Cheddar Man had ancestral versions of genes found in modern European populations. That would mean that he had a darker skin tone with blue eyes.

A hi-tech scanner was used to render the skull into a three-dimensional model. Adrie and Alfons Kennis were able to recreate Cheddar Man's appearance using scientific research.

"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 Chris Stringer, a research leader 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."

This was revealed in advance of a documentary about Cheddar Man. The documentary is set to be released on Feb. 18. 

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