Published: Fri, February 09, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

It was initially thought that the Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair but DNA analysis revealed that he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.

The new analysis was done with the Cheddar Man's skeleton which was discovered in 1903 in England in the cave where the cool temperatures helped to preserve the skeleton's valuable DNA.

"Until recently it was always assumed that humans quickly adapted to have paler skin after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago", Natural History Museum researcher Tom Booth said. "These "Western Hunter-Gatherer's" migrated into Europe at the end of the last ice age and the group included Cheddar Man's ancestors", explained Professor Thomas. It is believed he is related to 1 in 10 people living across the United Kingdom today. Now, 115 years after the day he was found, Cheddar Man makes the important leap from myth to reality thanks to a combination of facial reconstruction techniques and innovative DNA techniques-the DNA obtained from drilling a 2mm hole in Cheddar Man's skull was sequenced to achieve the remarkable results.

The face of the man, who died more than 10,000 years ago, was reconstructed using DNA taken from bone powder in his inner ear.

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IT'S LIKELY THAT the early Irish populations had dark skin, similar to the Cheddar Man discovery made in the United Kingdom this week, according to genetic experts.

"We think [the Irish examples] would be similar. So it has taken thousands of years for it to become like it is today".

Bradley said that these early Irish came before the "big, big change" in our genomes and culture from the onset of farming.

Bradley's research suggests that there were about 30-40,000 people on the island of Ireland at the time that the dark skin genomes date back to. "They ate a lot of fish, hunted wild boar and gathered plants and nuts".

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Cheddar Gorge is indeed the birthplace of cheddar cheese, but despite his name and his origins, Cheddar Man could not eat cheese.

Channel 4 will broadcast The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man on Sunday 18 February.

Then, a pair of Dutch artists who are experts in paleontology model making, Alfons and Adrie Kennis, used a high-tech scanner to make a three-dimensional model of Cheddar Man's head.

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".

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