Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men


RouTe - 07 February 2018, 11:39


Face of 'The First Brit' known as the Cheddar Man revealed – and he had dark skin

Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men

A groundbreaking study reveals the remains found a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset did not belong to a pale-skinned person, as previously thought

This is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men – and he had dark skin.

Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset.

But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows he would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.

Previous reconstructions of Cheddar Man, which were not based on DNA data, depicted him with a lighter skin tone.

But research by evolution and DNA specialists at the Natural History Museum and University College London suggests the skin colour associated with northern European ancestry is a more recent development.

The research and remodelling process was documented for Channel 4 show The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man.

Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men
The remains were found a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset, and date from 7,150BC (Image: PA)

Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men
Researchers say the young man would have had dark complexion along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair (Image: PA)

Professor Ian Barnes, research leader at the Natural History Museum, said: “For me, it’s not just the skin colour that’s interesting, it’s that combination of features that make him look not like anyone that you’d see today.

“Not just dark skin and blue eyes, because you can get that combination, but also the face shape.

“So all of this combines together and makes him just not the same as people you see around today.”

Researchers Professor Barnes and Dr Selina Brace extracted DNA data from bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull’s inner ear bone.

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.

Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men
Academics extracted DNA data from bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull (Image: PA)

The twins, who have created reconstructions for museums around the world and usually create models of Neanderthals, spent three months creating Cheddar Man.

“It’s really nice to make a more graceful man, not a heavy-browed Neanderthal. So we were very excited that it was a guy from after the Ice Age. We were very interested in what kind of human he was,” said Alfons.



“With the new DNA information it was really revolutionary. And it allowed us to look more at race, this revealed stuff that we’d never had known before.”

Cheddar Man, thought to have died in his twenties and to have had a relatively good diet, lived in Britain when it was almost completely empty.

Although previous populations had settled in Britain long before his arrival, they were wiped out before him and he marked the start of continuous habitation on the island.

Here is the face of one of modern Britain’s earliest men
Adrie (left) and Alfons Kennis sit beside their full facial reconstruction model (Image: PA)

Genetically, he belonged to a group of people known as the “Western Hunter-Gatherers” - Mesolithic-era individuals from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.

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.

Alfons said: “People define themselves by which country they’re from, and they assume their ancestors were just like them.

“And then suddenly new research shows that we used to be a totally different people with a different genetic makeup.

“People will be surprised, and maybe it will make immigrants feel a bit more involved in the story. And maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. We are all immigrants.”

The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man airs on Channel 4 on Sunday February 18.



ByMatthew Young
06:38, 7 FEB 2018 www.mirror.co.uk