First modern Briton had dark skin and blue eyes

DNA tests on the oldest complete skeleton discovered in the UK indicate that he had black skin and blue eyes. Known as the Cheddar Man, the remains were unearthed 115 years ago in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, within the county of Somerset in South West England. He was shown to be 5ft 5in tall and probably died in his early 20s.

The latest research has been performed by London’s Natural History Museum and University College London (UCL) and is the first attempt to pinpoint the skin tone of Britons from the Mesolithic era. UCL researchers extracted DNA from a bone near the ear of the skeleton and then used genome analysis to attempt facial reconstruction. This is the first time that a prehistoric Briton of this age has had their genome analysed.

The Cheddar Man has yielded the highest coverage (a measure of the sequencing accuracy) for a genome from the Mesolithic period. The researchers discovered that the Stone Age Briton had dark hair, blue eyes and skin that was probably dark brown or black in tone. The finding suggests that the lighter skin characteristic of modern Europeans is a relatively recent phenomenon. Pale skin probably arrived in the UK with a migration of people from the Middle East around 6000 years ago.