Cheddar Man, The First British Citizen


For the first time in British history scientists have successfully reconstructed the first modern Briton’s facial appearance using DNA withdrawn from a 10,000 year old skeleton. Itself discovered more than 100 years ago.

Unearthed 115 years ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset, Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, has been scientifically proven (quite possibly to the chagrin of members of Britain’s far right political movements) to have had dark to black skin pigmentation and blue eyes.


Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London discovered that following the last Ice Age Britain’s closest settlers would have travelled from Africa, through the Middle East and continued into Europe. Eventually reaching Britain thanks to Doggerland, the ancient land bridge connecting Britain to Continental Europe.


Speaking to the BBC, Professor Chris Stringer, the Natural History Museum’s research leader in human origins said of the findings. “I’ve been studying the skeletal remains of Cheddar Man for nearly 40 years.”


He continued, “so to come face to face with what this guy could have looked like, and that striking combination of the hair, the face, the eye colour and that dark skin, something a few years ago we couldn’t have imagined, and yet that’s what the scientific data show.”


It is thought that the pigmentation of early man gradually lightened over time as a direct result of a lack of vitamin D in their diet, meaning that the body had to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight, and the lighter the skin pigmentation the easier the body absorbs Vitamin D.


In a reversal of fortune scientists are certain that Australian skin cancer rates amongst descendants of 18th century British and Europeans colonists are the highest in the world, because their skin hasn’t adapted to the increase in UV exposure. Australian colonists have had 200 years to adapt to the extreme sunlight, Cheddar Man and his descendants adapted to Britain’s cloudier skies over a 10,000 year period.


Thanks to the development of 3D printing and 3D scanning Adrie and Alfons Kennis, specialists in the area of creating reconstructions of fossilised frameworks (Paleo-art), were able to take a 3D scan of the 10,000 year old skull, allowing a 3D print to be possible.


Using the previously mentioned Cheddar Man DNA sample, scientists distributed the DNA across his full genome, creating a library of DNA, and using a modern human genome as comparison developed his appearance. The details were then sent to a biometric lab, where a portrait could be developed.


Adrie and Alfons Kennis with the help of evidence provided by researchers, could then develop the skull. Researchers after focussing on genes scientifically linked to skin, hair and eye colour, helped shape Cheddar Man’s appearance, After three months of painstaking reconstruction, the findings, the skull and pigmentation were revealed to the world.

With the advancement of DNA and genome mapping, scientists have estimated 10% per cent of all white British ancestry is linked to the population of hunter gatherers living in Britain at the time, Cheddar Man included.


Living in the Mesolithic Age, 5 ft 5 Cheddar Man in his early 20’s met his (possibly grisly) demise in Gough’s Cave, Somerset. Waiting a mere 10,000 years for his moment of fame, Cheddar Man proves that even during this ancient and violent time, colour was and remains to this day merely skin deep.