The first modern Brits were black. New DNA analysis of the “Cheddar Man” fossil has revealed that he had “dark to black” skin and blue eyes, the Guardian reports. Cheddar Man would have lived about 10,000 years ago, a short time after human populations migrated from Europe to the British Isles at the end of the last Ice Age. Previous human populations had died out. This means a percentage of white Brits can trace their ancestry back to this man and that fair skin developed among this population much later than originally estimated.
Cheddar Man was first discovered more than a century ago in Somerset, England. Scientists originally thought that he had light-colored skin and hair. However, the recent DNA analysis shows that he only had light-colored eyes, which were blue. His hair was dark and curly along with his brown skin.
An archaeologist who worked on the project says that it illustrates that the “racial categories” that pervade our world today are relatively new social constructions. They “really are not applicable to the past at all,” said Tom Booth from the Natural History Museum. It also reinforces that geographical origin can’t be determined by external physical characteristics like the color of your skin, eyes, or the texture of your hair.
The DNA results were accompanied by a reconstruction of Cheddar Man’s face. The reconstruction includes the dark skin and blue eyes, but it also revealed that he had high cheekbones as well. This project is linked to a British documentary titled The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000-Year-Old Man, which chronicles the discovery of the truth behind Cheddar Man’s genetics.
As the Independent reports, the news that the earliest known Brit had dark skin isn’t going well with a lot of people. Some are questioning the validity of the findings and whether it might be part of some sort of racial agenda. British identity has been tied to whiteness for centuries, so this groundbreaking news is bound to ruffle some feathers.
According to the Independent, scientists made their discovery by examining the DNA they found in bone powder extracted from Cheddar Man’s skull. The 3D model was created by Alfons and Adrie Kennis, who are known for their realistic recreations of early humans and animals that are extinct.