Blue-eyed and dark: Meet the early Briton

Cheddar Man skull

Unearthed in 1903 in a cave at Cheddar Gorge, in the county of Somerset, the Mesolithic-era man was a hunter-gatherer whose ancestors migrated into Europe at the end of the last Ice Age.

The scientists said their work on Cheddar Man was one of their most challenging human DNA projects, adding that "no British individual this old has ever had their genome sequenced". Scientists say that DNA from the Cheddar Man population can be linked to about 10 per cent of the genetic make-up of modern Europeans.

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The twins, who have created reconstructions for museums around the world and usually create models of Neanderthals, spent three months creating Cheddar Man. Black or white, Muslim, Christian, or Athiest, everyone can be British so long as they share a unifying self-depreciative sense of humor, a love of free healthcare, and a fondness for tea.

"They had dark skin and majority had pale colored eyes, either blue or green, and dark brown hair".

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A Channel 4 documentary, to be shown on 18th February 2018 at 8pm, entitled The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man, follows the researchers as they help to put the flesh back on Cheddar Man's bones. However, Cheddar Man had "ancestral" versions of all these genes, strongly suggesting he would have had "dark to black" skin tone, but combined with blue eyes. This find is of particular interest, as the features of the ancient specimen bear little resemblance to modern-day Britons, complicating the ethnographic picture even further.

The research analysed Ireland's populations from approximately 6,000 years ago as part of a joint project between TCD and the National Museum of Ireland and found that the existence of darker skin in Ireland from two different sets of remains. To be able to completely reconstruct what Cheddar man looked like in so much detail from such a small amount of DNA is incredible. As the DNA was unusually well-preserved, possibly due to the cool, stable conditions in the limestone cave, the team extracted sufficient genetic information to inform the facial reconstruction, as well as other genetic characteristics. There is a hole in his skull that could be the result of an infection during life, or simply damage from the early-20th-century excavations.

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This allowed the team to compare markers for physical traits, and determine what the Cheddar Man could have looked like. Dr Sylvia Bello and Professor Chris Stringer of the NHM, who first excavated at Gough's Cave 30 years ago, have spent the last ten years analysing the bones of the earlier inhabitants of the cave. Humans had lived in Britain off and on for thousands of years before his time, but they had been wiped out during periodic ice ages. The study of cups made from human skulls suggests cannibalistic behaviour was driven by a type of ritual rather than starvation.

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