Weird History After Reconstructing A 10,000 Year Old Skeleton, Scientists Think The First Europeans Had Dark Skin  

Carly Silver
February 12, 2018 8.3k views 10 items

There's something about the ability to see history in three dimensions that really makes it come alive. This is probably why 3D re-creations of some of history's most significant figures captive museum goers and internet users alike. One recent re-creation has truly broken the internet, and its name is Cheddar Man. Discovered in a cave in Cheddar, Somerset – the so-called Cheddar Man cave – in the southwest of England, the skeleton is 10,000 years old. It's also the oldest complete skeleton of a proto-Brit.

But what did Cheddar Man look like? Thanks to testing done by ancient DNA geneticists, a recent Cheddar Man reconstruction shows that Cheddar Man probably had dark skin, curly hair, and blue eyes, rather than the pale phenotype that many people expected him to have. This reconstruction has caused quite a stir and a flurry of internet reactions and think pieces; Cheddar Man's appearance suggests that the history of the British Isles isn't as "white" as some people thought.

The Oldest British Man Had Dark Skin, Blue Eyes, Curly Hair, And Origins In The Middle East

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Video: YouTube

The Cheddar Man skeleton was discovered in 1903, and since then, many people assumed that Cheddar Man had been a man with pale skin because many phenotypically white Britons descended from Cheddar Man's population. 

In fact, though, DNA reconstruction shows that his phenotype manifested itself as dark skin, curly hair, and blue eyes. In order to obtain the DNA, scientists had to drill a two-millimeter hole into Cheddar Man's skull. They analyzed the resultant "bone powder" and reconstructed his genome, which revealed Middle Eastern origins. His ancestors arrived in Britain not long after the last ice age. They came via the Middle East after leaving Africa.

Racists Aren't Too Happy About The Reconstruction

Prejudiced individuals exploded on social media at the idea that the oldest Brit was actually dark-skinned. An American congressman posted a racist tweet in which he altered a photo of American actress Meghan Markle, fiancée of Prince Harry, to show Cheddar Man's face. Comments sections on scientific articles all over the internet blew up. One man even claimed that scientists can't prove anything without a time machine. Because that makes sense, right?

He Was Lactose Intolerant And Couldn't Drink Beer

Given his name, Cheddar Man sounds like a fellow who would love dairy. Ironically, though, he was probably lactose intolerant. Bioarchaeologist Tom Booth said, “Cheddar Man existed before farming had spread to Britain. By looking, we can tell he would have been unable to digest raw milk." Similarly, his digestive system wouldn't have been able to process alcohol.

10,000-Year-Old Cheddar Man Is Britain's Oldest Complete Skeleton

Cheddar Man is no spring chicken. In fact, he is the oldest complete skeleton to ever be found in Britain, coming in at a whopping 10,000 years old. His ancestors started migrating from the Middle East about 12,000 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers who moved west after the end of the last Ice Age when they hopped the Channel from Europe into what we today recognize as the United Kingdom.