The Cheddar Man rolls out a surprise

Face of first Brit revealed - UCL

But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows that the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.

It was this cool, stable limestone cave environment that preserved the Cheddar Man's DNA for thousands of years - and he is the oldest British individual to have had his whole genome sequenced.

"It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all", Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, told The Guardian.

The twins, who have created reconstructions for museums around the world and usually create models of Neanderthals, spent three months creating Cheddar Man.

Cheddar Man's 10,000-year-old skeleton was discovered near the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England, in 1903. Some experts have suggested that ancient humans in more temperate regions were exposed to less sunlight, and therefore evolved to have lighter skin, which absorbs more ultraviolet radiation ― necessary for the production of vitamin D. Data and software used in forensics gave a clearer understanding of Cheddar Man's skin pigmentation. These are more likely to have protected the DNA inside - leg bones or teeth are often good bets, but it turns out the best place is the inner ear.

To extract the DNA, researchers and scientists working on the project, had to insert a small incision into the skull by drilling into the bone. They made a tiny hole just 2 millimetres in diameter. Scientists say that DNA from the Cheddar Man population can be linked to about 10 per cent of the genetic make-up of modern Europeans. There is damage to his skull that could indicate an accidental or violent death, although it could also have been damaged during excavation. But whether he was covered purposefully or the sediment built up over time is, again, unknown.

Cheddar Man's remains are believed to represent the evolution of British people from the Mesolithic period to present day. "They ate a lot of fish, hunted wild boar and gathered plants and nuts". Britain has been inhabited ever since, but the genetic makeup and consequent appearance of the population has varied considerably over this time.

Research leader at the Natural History Museum, Professor Ian Barnes, spoke at the screening of the documentary and said that the new research shows that Cheddar Man looks like "anyone that you'd see today".

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