It isn’t at all surprising that ancient Britons were dark skinned — we know the genes behind pigmentation, we have sequenced genomes from skeletons that are thousands of years old, and we know that light skins were the result of a mutation that swept through Europe about 6,000 years ago. So when a reconstruction of Cheddar Man, a 10,000 year old skeleton found in England, is made from the skull plus genomic information, we should expect that he’d be found to have been dark-skinned.
The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.
The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.
It was initially assumed that Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture, strongly suggesting he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.
The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today.
Here’s the reconstruction in a BBC video. Cheddar Man is as we ought to have expected. Actually, the only thing that made me raise my eyebrows is that the research team consists of 6 white men and 1 white woman, kind of like how the SpaceX rocket team was mostly white men, too.
It would be nice if the research effort that is revealing the genetic diversity of our recent ancestors at least reflected a bit of that diversity today.
By the way, the comments on this reconstruction also reveal a tremendous amount of denial from the usual racists who think this is an invention cobbled up by scientists to appease radical leftists. This, also, is not surprising.