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ritain is believed to be one of the most developed nations throughout history and yet it has been discovered to be one of the last nations to be populated by Homo sapiens, which originated in Africa. We know that after the 100,000-year war, the Homo sapiens started to populate the world by migrating mostly to Europe and Asia. One of the last pieces of European land was Britain which at the time seemed like a strange island, but those that had been more adventurous decided to give it a try.

One of the first British ancestors

One of those people was Cheddar Man, as named by those who have worked towards producing this reconstruction of what he would have looked like 10,000 years ago. In a project managed by Britain’s Natural History Museum and University College London, the aim was to use a skeleton found in 1903 of the Cheddar Man, which from the carbon analysis was aged to 10,000 years old, making it the oldest skeleton found on British lands.

The realization of this reconstructed model was done by using the bone marrow within the well-preserved skull and performing a DNA analysis that would enable scientists to see the physical characteristics of the skeleton. The man had blue eyes and dark skin color which was normal for the early era Homo sapiens that were only recently migrating from Africa.

The reason why all Homo sapiens had dark skin is that they all came from Africa where the weather was very hot. The skin pigment presented by Cheddar Man is associated with people found within sub-Saharan Africa today. What is surprising is why the pigment of Cheddar man didn’t evolve sooner. Some historians say that Homo Sapiens migrating from Africa started changing their skin color around 45,000 years ago to a paler pigment. This is because pale skin is better at absorbing UV light which helps with the development of Vitamin D.

Chris Stringer who is a member of Britain’s Natural History Museum was amazed at the characteristics presented by this model of how the first British ancestor looked like. With some deeper research within the DNA of the skeleton, it seems that Cheddar Man had similar characteristics presented within Homo sapiens from Spain, Hungary, and Luxembourg at the time.

The evolution between 300 generations from the first ancestor presented by Cheddar Man and your average British person from today is astonishing. Remember that we are not talking about millions of years, but an evolution that took place in only 10,000 years.

Model makers Adrie (L) and Alfons Kennis created the bust of ‘Cheddar Man’ using a high-tech scanner that had been designed for the International Space Station (Source: Public Domain)

Research done by the University College of London had shown that 10% of the population of Britain shares similar characteristics with this ancestor. You may think that this is a low percentage, but based on the high diversity presented within Britain’s population for the last 100 years, this is an amazing percentage.

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