Vancouver Sun

DNA SUG­GESTS EARLY BRITON HAD DARK SKIN

SKELE­TAL FIND SUB­VERTS ‘AS­SUMP­TIONS’

- Jill law­less in Lon­don Science · College · Higher Education · United Kingdom · Natural History Museum · University College London · London · Wolfson College, Cambridge · England · Spain · Hungary · Luxembourg · Middle East · Ice Age · Trinity College · Dublin · Trinity College Dublin · Trinity College

DNA from a 10,000year-old skele­ton found in an English cave sug­gests the old­est­known Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, re­searchers said Wed­nes­day.

Sci­en­tists from Bri­tain’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum and Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don an­a­lyzed the genome of “Ched­dar Man,” who was found in Ched­dar Gorge in south­west Eng­land in 1903.

Sci­en­tists led by mu­seum DNA ex­pert Ian Barnes drilled into the skull to ex­tract DNA from bone pow­der. They say anal­y­sis in­di­cates he had blue eyes, dark curly hair and “dark to black” skin pig­men­ta­tion.

The re­searchers say the ev­i­dence sug­gests that Euro­peans’ pale skin tones de­vel­oped much later than orig­i­nally thought.

“Ched­dar Man sub­verts peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions of what kinds of ge­netic traits go to­gether,” said Tom Booth, a post-doc­toral re­searcher at the mu­seum who worked on the project.

“It seems that pale eyes en­tered Europe long be­fore pale skin or blond hair, which didn’t come along un­til af­ter the ar­rival of farm­ing.”

“He re­minds us that you can’t make as­sump­tions about what peo­ple looked like in the past based on what peo­ple look like in the present, and that the pair­ings of fea­tures we are used to see­ing to­day aren’t some­thing that’s fixed,” Booth said on the mu­seum web­site.

It’s thought an­cient hu­mans liv­ing in north­ern re­gions de­vel­oped pale skin be­cause it ab­sorbs more sun­light, which is needed to pro­duce vi­ta­min D.

Ched­dar Man shares a ge­netic pro­file with sev­eral other Mesolithic-era in­di­vid­u­als found in Spain, Hun­gary and Lux­em­bourg whose DNA has al­ready been an­a­lyzed. The group, known as Western Hunter-Gather­ers, mi­grated to Europe from the Mid­dle East af­ter the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago.

Dan Bradley, a pro­fes­sor of pop­u­la­tion ge­net­ics at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin, said the find­ings were cred­i­ble.

“There are other data from hunter-gather­ers who lived in western Europe, and they also show darker skin and light eyes, blue eyes,” said Bradley, who was not in­volved with the study.

“Mod­ern Euro­peans are a mix­ture of peo­ple like this, who are older hunter-gath­erer in­hab­i­tants of western Europe, and peo­ple who came in with the ad­vent of agri­cul­ture, and peo­ple who came from the east in the Bronze Age and who also brought new ge­net­ics into the re­gion.”

Ched­dar Man is the old­est com­plete skele­ton found in Bri­tain. Hu­mans had lived in Bri­tain off and on for thou­sands of years be­fore his time, but they had been wiped out dur­ing pe­ri­odic ice ages.

Ched­dar Man would have been one of a tiny pop­u­la­tion of hunter-gather­ers in Bri­tain at the time. Sci­en­tists, who have been study­ing his skele­ton for decades, say he ap­pears to have had a healthy diet but died in his 20s, pos­si­bly through vi­o­lence.

 ?? JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES ?? A re­con­struc­tion made from the skull of a man who lived 10,000 years ago is dis­played Tues­day at the Na­tional His­tory Mu­seum in Lon­don. Re­searchers say Euro­peans’ pale skin tones may have de­vel­oped much later than thought.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES A re­con­struc­tion made from the skull of a man who lived 10,000 years ago is dis­played Tues­day at the Na­tional His­tory Mu­seum in Lon­don. Re­searchers say Euro­peans’ pale skin tones may have de­vel­oped much later than thought.

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