Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello, Cheddar Man

In case you missed the news about Cheddar Man, here he is:

His 10,000-year-old remains were discovered a century ago in the Cheddar Gorge near Glastonbury; they are the oldest known human remains in England.

It's only just now that the researchers have announced some findings of his DNA, and darned if they haven't concluded that he was dark-skinned, though he did have blue eyes.

As the Guardian puts it,

The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today.

Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, said: “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.”

Yoan Diekmann, a computational biologist at University College London and another member of the project’s team, agreed, saying the connection often drawn between Britishness and whiteness was “not an immutable truth. It has always changed and will change”....

Scientists believe that populations living in Europe became lighter-skinned over time because pale skin absorbs more sunlight, which is required to produce enough vitamin D. The latest findings suggest pale skin may have emerged later, possibly when the advent of farming meant people were obtaining less vitamin D though dietary sources like oily fish.
Musician and songwriter Billy Bragg had the best analysis, on Twitter: "I just love the expression on Cheddar Man's face. It's like he knows how much it will annoy white supremacists to learn that the earliest Britons had dark skin."

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