First modern Briton had dark skin, DNA shows

For the first time, it’s possible to take a look at the face of a man who lived more than 10,000 years ago.

The modern Britain – who had dark skin, blue eyes and black curly hair – has been reconstructed using groundbreaking DNA research.

Nicknamed Cheddar Man, the young man’s skeleton was found in 1903 in Gough’s Cave in Somerset.

But while initial reconstructions portrayed him with light skin and brown eyes, the full DNA analysis has shown him to have “dark to black skin”.

Cheddar Man is Britain's oldest complete skeleton

Image: Cheddar Man is Britain’s oldest complete skeleton

Research by the Natural History Museum and University College London (UCL) suggests that the light skin tone associated with northern European ancestry actually developed later in evolution.

A “Western Hunter-Gatherer” hailing from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg, one in ten British people today will share Cheddar Man’s genes.

His ancestors had originally migrated to Europe from the Middle East.

His arrival marked the start of continuous population in Britain, with previous populations having been wiped out before him.

The oldest complete skeleton in Britain, the fact he was found in a cave – which was a cool, dry and consistent environment – helped preserve his remains.

The 9,000-year-old skeleton was found in 1903

Image: The skeleton was found in Somerset in 1903

Research suggests he had a good diet and died in his twenties.

DNA data used to rebuild his face was extracted by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull’s inner ear bone.

“Paleo artists” – twins Alfons and Adrie Kennis – then spent three months building a 3D model using a high-tech scanner.

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Calling the DNA findings “revolutionary”, Alfons Kennis said: “People will be surprised…and maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. We are all immigrants.”

A Channel 4 documentary following the reconstruction of Cheddar Man – The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000-Year-Old Man – airs on Sunday 18 February.