Published: Fri, February 09, 2018
Medical | By Josefina Yates

Ever heard of "Cheddar Man?" Here's a look at him, reconstructed

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The blue eyes, dark curly hair and darker skin pigmentation of Cheddar Man suggests that the lighter pigmentation associated with Northern Europe came to be far more recently than previously thought.

The densest bone in the human body is the petrous part of the temporal bones at the sides of the skull, and it was this that the team drilled into to extract a sample. The discovery of Cheddar Man's dark skin shows "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", he told The Guardian.

The Cheddar Man is named after Cheddar Gorge, a location in Somerset, in England, where cheddar cheese was first popularized.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland, professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Dan Bradley said that a project with the National Museum of Ireland has made similar findings for that of the earliest Irish populations.

This shows similarities with the findings of Cheddar Man who has DNA linking him to migration from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg sometime after the last Ice Age.

"The earliest Irish would have been the same as Cheddar Man and would have had darker skin than we have today", Prof Bradley said. "The current, very light skin we have in Ireland is at the endpoint of thousands of years of surviving in a climate where there's very little sun", Bradley said. "So it has taken thousands of years for it to become like it is today".

The so-called Cheddar Man was a hunter-gatherer during the Mesolithic period, which ended just before the appearance of agriculture. The statue has blue eyes, dark brown hair, and dark brown skin.

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Bradley added that while these are preliminary findings, he and his fellow researchers hope to publish the full results within the next year.

"Cheddar Man subverts people's expectations of what kinds of genetic traits go together", said Booth.

Cheddar Man's DNA was also analysed back in the 1990's by Oxford University's Brian Sykes, who sequenced Mitochondrial DNA (DNA passed from mother to child) from Cheddar Man's teeth.

"Paleo artists" - twins Alfons and Adrie Kennis - then spent three months building a 3D model using a high-tech scanner.

It maybe gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere.

A documentary describing the research, First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man, is due to air on UK's Channel 4 next week. "We are all immigrants".

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