DNA analysis has revealed that the earliest known British skeleton had dark skin and pale blue eyes. The skeleton dates back to circa 7150 BC and was discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, but has only recently undergone genomic sequencing. Around 10% of our genes are derived from mesolithic hunter-gatherers like Cheddar Man, and so this discovery provides us with an important insight into our ancestry. Light skin is shown to be a relatively recent phenomenon, evolving a significant amount of time after our ancestors settled in Europe. Whilst darker skin protects from the harsh UV of warmer continents, lighter skin allows for more sunlight absorption (and vitamin D production) in the cooler European regions. The appearance of light skin is hardly surprising, what is surprising is just how recent an occurrence it is. The blue eyes are a little bit more difficult to explain, it seems.
In the current sociopolitical climate that we have found ourselves in, it would serve many people well to reflect on such discoveries. We all share one origin, and we all share this world that we call home. I’m glad you found your home in England, Cheddar Man.
Photo credit: The BBC