Published: Fri, February 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

The skeleton itself is the oldest almost complete human skeleton ever discovered in Britain, though it's been studied for over a century after being unearthed in 1903.

The results of the analysis along with a forensic reconstruction of the face of Cheddar Man were unveiled on a documentary by Channel 4 that took a look at the Natural History Museum's ancient DNA project.

Cheddar Man is the oldest skeleton found in Britain, and DNA analysis of his body has revealed that he had dark to black skin, coarse black hair and blue eyes.

It was previously thought that Cheddar Man has light skin and brown eyes, but the new analysis showed that he was actually much darker.

Cheddar Man and his people probably left Africa and passed through the Middle East before winding up in what is now Britain.

They would then have travelled west into Europe, before crossing the ancient land bridge called Doggerland which connected Britain to continental Europe.

The interesting name given to the ancient human can be explained by the fact that his remains were first discovered in Cheddar Gorge, a limestone gorge located in Somerset back in 1903.

Further examination has shown that the man was short by today's standards - about 5ft 5in - and possibly died in his early 20s.

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise
The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

"Cheddar Man had blue eyes, dark colored curly hair and "dark to black" skin pigmentation".

Model makers, Adrie and Alfons Kennis, used a hi-tech scanner to render Cheddar Man's skull in full three-dimensional detail, fleshing it out with facial features based on the results of the scientific research. So we were very excited that it was a guy from after the Ice Age.

"Cheddar Man's genetic profile places him with several other Mesolithic-era Europeans from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg whose DNA has already been analyzed", UCL genetics professor Mark Thomas said in a statement.

Prof Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, first excavated at Gough's Cave 30 years ago, said: "I first studied "Cheddar Man" more than 40 years ago, but could never have believed that we would one day have his whole genome - the oldest British one to date!"

Although previous populations had settled in Britain long before his arrival, they were wiped out before him and he marked the start of continuous habitation on the island.

Alfons said: "People define themselves by which country they're from, and they assume that their ancestors were just like them".

"People will be surprised, and maybe it will make immigrants feel a bit more involved in the story".

The model will be shown on the Channel 4 documentary, which is scheduled to be aired on February 18.

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