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'Cheddar Man' The oldest skeleton in Britain, had dark skin, shows DNA

    Abdulaziz Sobh
    By Abdulaziz Sobh

    Categories: Science

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    'Cheddar Man', the oldest skeleton in Britain, had dark skin, shows DNA

    He had dark skin, curly brown hair, and blue eyes, suggesting DNA testing, returning a common assumption that the indigenous populations of Britain were all fair-skinned with beautiful features.

    He is "Cheddar Man", the oldest complete skeleton of Great Britain, which was discovered in 1903 in Gough's Cave, near the village of Cheddar in Somerset, in southwestern England. He lived about 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period, half of the Stone Age.

    Scientists have now reconstructed their characteristics, showing that they were part of a population of ancient Western Europeans that, scientists have shown in recent years, had dark skin. Research has shown that the pigmentation of the clean skin, long considered a defining feature of Europe, dates back to less than 6,000 years ago.

    The research was conducted by the Natural History Museum and University College London. A press release on the research was published on Wednesday, but the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    "I studied Cheddar Man for the first time more than 40 years ago, but I could never have believed that one day we would have all of its genome, the oldest of the British to date," said Professor Chris Stringer, a research leader in human origin in the natural history Museum.

    "Going beyond what the bones tell us and getting a scientific picture of what it really was is a surprising and surprising achievement," said Professor Stringer, who was excavating fossils for the first time in Gough's cave 30 years ago.

    The new research shows that Cheddar Man belonged to a population known as Western hunter-gatherers, who first immigrated to Europe about 14,000 years ago, he said. Today, about 10 percent of British ancestors can be linked to that population
    For decades, the British have debated about their origin and what defines the nature of their genetic heritage.

    As scientists recover more DNA from the ancient British, they are discovering how the islands received waves after wave of immigrants for tens of thousands of years.

    This growing knowledge of ancient British genetics is allowing researchers to reconstruct the biology of the early British, including the color of their skin.

    "What may seem a truth - that people who feel that the British should have white skin - over time are not something that is an immutable truth," said Joan Diekmann, a biologist at University College London who participated in the investigation.

    Researchers who study the skin of living people have been able to determine how some variants influence pigmentation. When humans emerged in Africa 300,000 years ago, according to recent research, they had a mixture of light and dark variants.

    Humans first came to Europe from Africa about 45,000 years ago. Western hunter-gatherers emigrated from the Near East much later, mostly replacing the Europeans who were already there.

    Researchers who studied a 7,000-year-old Spanish fossil discovered for the first time that at least some Western hunter-gatherers were probably dark-skinned and blue-eyed. The subsequent investigation confirmed this finding.

    Until now, no one knew Cheddar Man's affinity. The new research shows that he was part of the western population of hunter-gatherers.

    "Before, we did not know what population lived in Britain, because we did not have a genome from there," said Dr. Diekmann.

    By studying a more recent skeleton, researchers found evidence of the arrival of farmers in England, who descended from people in the Near East. These people had some variants for lighter skin.

    Researchers have found genetic variants for fair skin in Sweden and other parts further east dating back 7,700 years. The subsequent waves of people from the Near East and Central Asia also brought with them clear skin variants. Less than 6,000 years ago, Europeans generally changed to this new color.

    Why Europeans became white, and why it happened about 40,000 years after modern humans arrived in Europe, "are practically open questions," said Dr. Diekmann.

    The DNA analysis in Cheddar Man was carried out by drilling a small hole in the old skull and extracting bone energy, which provides genetic information for facial reconstruction.

    Its name comes from the town where it was found. Archaeologists also found bones belonging to primitive human cannibals in Gough's Cave believed to have existed about 5,000 years before the Cheddar Man, but their DNA profile has no direct ancestry to him even though they were found in it. place.

    Still, Cheddar Man has many living relatives.

    One of them still lives in Somerset, according to a DNA experiment conducted in 1997 by Oxford scientists. He was identified as Adrian Targett, a high school history teacher, who is related to Cheddar Man by his mother, according to the study.

    Mr. Targett could not be contacted immediately for comment on Wednesday, but in 1997, when a group of tourists from Los Angeles saw a poster with images explaining the relationship between the two men, one of them said: "You can not see anything same.