Close up of the model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions

Blue Eyed, Black Skinned British Hunter Closes Race Debate

A 10,000-year-old hunter had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The Cheddar Man fossil was unearthed in Gough’s Cave in Somerset over a century ago. Archaeologists determined at the time that he was one of the first settlers to have crossed Doggerland, the land bridge from continental Europe to Britain, after the glaciers began receding at the end of the last ice age. According to scientists at London’s Natural History Museum Cheddar Man was about five foot five inches tall (1.65 meters) and around 10 stone (63.5 kg) in weight, he had good teeth and died in his early 20s. It was “luck”, however, that they found “scraps of DNA in his ear” stated archaeologists at the museum this week.

Reassembled skeleton of Cheddar Man, the oldest complete skeleton found in the UK.

Reassembled skeleton of Cheddar Man, the oldest complete skeleton found in the UK. (Image: Natural History Museum)

But even having obtained a tiny dna sample “coaxing data from ancient DNA can be painstaking work” said Dr Selina Brace, who specializes in ancient DNA at the Museum and worked closely on Cheddar Man. However, using new genetic sequencing technology that wasn’t available ten years ago, the team located the genes linked to skin and hair color and texture, and eye color and discovered he had a “dark to black” skin tone and “blue eyes.”

The Skull of Cheddar Man.

The Skull of Cheddar Man. (Image: Natural History Museum)

Speaking of this remarkable discovery, the lead researcher in human origins at the Natural History Museum, Dr Professor Chris Stringer, announced to reporters this week “The combination of quite dark skin and blue eyes is something that we don’t imagine is typical, but that was the real appearance of these people, something that’s quite rare today.”

The model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions (Image: ©Tom Barnes/Channel 4)

The model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions (Image: ©Tom Barnes/Channel 4)

So, how did Britons get from being black to pinky-white? And, why aren’t modern Africans also white?

Scientists believe that northern European peoples became lighter-skinned over time because pale skin absorbs more sunlight. Elaborating on this phenomenon, Dr Tom Booth, a postdoctoral researcher with the Natural History Museum’s human remains collection said this week, “Until recently it was always assumed that humans quickly adapted to have paler skin after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago.” Tom continued, “Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight.” This suggests pale skinned people emerged with the advent of farming, at time when people were obtaining less vitamin D from oily fish.

These results provide answers to many historical mysteries. Until this discovery, it was suspected that waves of migrants might have been seeded from the same population in mainland Europe, but the latest results suggest this was not the case. According to archaeologists at the Natural History Museum, Cheddar Man has Middle Eastern origins suggesting his ancestors left Africa for the Middle East and later headed west into Europe.

Image of reconstructed faces of three early humans in profile view.

Image of reconstructed faces of three early humans in profile view. Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We now know the genes for lighter skinned European populations spread far later than originally thought, and, that the people who founded the Britons looked pretty much like the Paleolithic African hunters, from whom all humans are believed to have descended. What is probably the most interesting fact established in these findings is that people of white British ancestry alive today, are direct descendants of this black population.

Dr Yoan Dieckmann, from University College London, who took part in the project, told the Telegraph: “What may seem as a cemented truth that people who feel British should have white skin, through time is not at all something that is an immutable truth…it has always changed and will change.” At a time when race issues so often dominate our headlines, the potential ways in which a writer can conclude an article of this nature are endless, but I feel it would be too obvious, predictable and cheap to sign off with some smart one liner directed at European racists, rubbing their black origins in their white faces.

Alternatively, I will make an observation which transgresses race. It is becoming clearer that one of the most powerful and paradigm changing effects our developing technologies will have on human culture is that, one day very soon, the ancient suspicions of gurus, shamans, priests, priestesses and oracles and all the other ‘non-scientific’ leaders in history, will be proven to be accurate, in one regard. Technology, is making it very apparent that we are indeed - all one.

The story of the black Cheddar Man will be presented in a documentary, The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man, airing in the UK on Channel 4 on Sunday February 18.

Top image: Close up of the model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions (Image: ©Tom Barnes/Channel 4)

By Ashley Cowie


The headline for this article is a little misleading and the article is over simplified. For example. the author claims in the headline that the Cheddar man was black skinned. However, that is not an accurate conclusion supported by the scientific evidence. The scientific evidence concludes the Cheddar man had dark to black skin. In other words, he could have had black skin or just have been darker than most Britons today. Also, examining an old, small DNA sample is problematic to begin with and interpretting the results can be biased on the researcher’s part. One must also remember that humans have always been migratory and the Cheddar man may have not been typical of the people living in the area. As always the scientific process is a long one and often change based on new evidence, new research techniques, and a more comperhensive understanding of the question. Even if the Cheddar man was really black skinned and not just dark skinned, it is possible that the dark skin was inherited from human interbreeding with other hominids. 

Quote: It was “luck”, however, that they found “scraps of DNA in his ear” - DNA sample could have easily been contaminated. Article has been ridiculed on social media and defies all other research on this matter. Typical political correctness now entering science.

How can you assume a whole race of people are black skinned with blue eyes? Perhaps this man was a combination of his parents DNA who may have been of different races. This may be just ONE man in a whole community of white men who look as you think he did. His DAN doesn't tell you he had blue eyes did it?

How does this close debate? Are we ending all scientific discovery? Will there be no more research?

The results from one individual cannot be assumed to represent an entire population. Since Britain may have still been part of the Continent at that time, that one person my have come from anywhere.


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Ancient Technology

The Lycurgus Cup.
A strange chalice made its way into the British Museum’s collection in the 1950s. It is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman artifact called the Lycurgus Cup. The image on the chalice is an iconic scene with King Lycurgus of Thrace...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article