DNA analysis of the earliest skeleton unearthed in Britain indicates that the man had dark skin and blue eyes, the Guardian reports. The work was done as part of a TV documentary.
The 'Cheddar Man,' who was found in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset in southwest England, lived some 10,000 years ago, after the end of the last ice age, the Guardian says. It adds that his origins and appearance have been of interest because people of white British ancestry are thought to trace their roots back to his population.
By drilling a small hole into his skull, researchers from the Natural History Museum in London collected enough genetic material to sequence Cheddar Man's full genome, according to the Guardian. From that, they analyzed genes previously linked to skin color, hair color and texture, and eye color to find that the Cheddar Man likely had dark skin, blue eyes, and dark, curly hair.
"Cheddar Man subverts people's expectations of what kinds of genetic traits go together," Tom Booth, a postdoc at the museum who worked on the project, tells the Associated Press. "It seems that pale eyes entered Europe long before pale skin or blond hair, which didn't come along until after the arrival of farming."
In addition, researchers said that Cheddar Man's ancestors likely left Africa for the Middle East and then arrived in Britain via the Doggerland land bridge, according to the Guardian. Cheddar Man was likely not related to previous inhabitants of the cave who appeared to have followed cannibalistic rituals, it adds.