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

White Skin Developed in Europe Only As Recently as 8,000 Years Ago Say Anthropologists

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Previous research published in 2008 found that the earliest mutations in the eye-color genes that led to the evolution of blue eyes probably occurred about 10,000 years ago in individuals living in around the Black Sea.

The surprising aspect of the findings is that while it is fundamental to natural selection that advantageous genetic attributes spread, it is not often a speedy process. The study shows that these genetic pale skin traits swept across Europe speedily, and that phenomenon is of particular interest to researchers.

The preprint study “Eight thousand years of natural selection in Europe” by Mathieson and colleagues has been published in the online journal BioRxiv.

These new findings shed light on humanity’s genetic past, giving us a clearer vision of our ancient origins.

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

By Liz Leafloor


I certainly find this article interesting in its implications. However, I can't help but wonder about older suspected fair skinned peoples found around the world. In particular, the Solutrean peoples from western Europe around 20-15 thousand years ago are believed to have been fair skinned and archaeologists are just now beginning to find evidence of their travel to the Americas between 17-13 thousand years ago.

It is believed that the evidence found from these peoples show that they were fair skinned. There are other examples around the world as well. I just find it hard to believe that such a dominate trait in the world today could be so recent.

In addition, how did these people cope with the radically reduced amount of sunlight and thus vitamin D which was an ever present problem in the northern climes. Were these people able to cope perfectly fine for 30 thousand years in Europe and then suddenly needed more vitamin D so adapted to paler skin only 8 thousand years ago? Why? This does not make sense to me.

In order for this trait to be useful it must have been developed earlier than 8 thousand years ago.

People there had to go underground so they couldn't have gotten much sunlight during the ice age so that could have played a part. The Nile also ran the opposite way and across Africa and emptied in the Atlantic so maybe the continents moved when the last pole shift happened. There are so many different possibilities for why that could have happened.

The article says that northern Europeans already had light skin and hair and blue eyes and this would likely have been due to absorption of UV light to produce vitamin D. 

The attraction of the “different” – being light skin, blue eyes – when the majority of people were darker skinned and brown eyes possibly meant that women and men chose mates with those “different” characteristics and this would have spread the genes through the population quite quickly.


Modern man settled in Anatolia around 11000 years ago, following deluge of Lemuria in South. He was dark skinned. His colour change tool 3000 years. And he was white 8000 years ago.


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