The First British People Were Dark-Skinned

DNA from one of Britain’s first people, Cheddar Man, shows that he was very likely to have dark brown skin and blue eyes. By sequencing the ancient DNA extracted from his skeleton, scientists were able to create skin color, eye color, and hair type. Despite his name of “Cheddar Man,” scientists also know from his DNA that he couldn’t digest milk.

Close up of the model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions

While it’s fascinating, and perhaps surprising, to learn that some of the first people to inhabit the island that is now known as Britain had dark skin and blue eyes, this striking combination is not altogether unpredictable given what we’ve learnt about Paleolithic Europe from ancient DNA. Dark skin was actually quite common in hunter gatherers such as Cheddar Man who were living in Europe in the millennia after he was alive – and blue eyes have been around since the Ice Age.

You can learn more in the National Geographic web site at:


When I saw this image in the UK press my reaction was that Cheddar Man had a slight smirk. Also if he was intolerant to milk then he was unlikely to be involved with the manufacture of cheddar cheese.


Couldn’t digest mother’s milk? He would have been extinct before birth !? Too much sensationalism going around these days !!!


    The full detail would be that he would have been lactose intolerant and unable to digest milk as an adult (which I suspect you knew and were playing Devil’s Advocate …)


    There is a difference between mother’s milk and cow or other animal milk. I had a daughter that was allergic to cow’s milk from birth and still has a great problem if she eats too much ice cream. Cheese doesn’t seem to bother her as the processing of Cheese removes the part of milk that is undigestible for her.


    mother’s milk is rarely a problem , it is the milk from critters that is not well digested in the humans


“The Cheddar Man earned his name, not because of his fondness for cheese, which likely wasn’t cultivated until around 3,000 years later, but because he was found in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England (which is, incidentally, where cheddar cheese originates).”
(from National Geographic)

Also, everyone can digest their mother’s milk, but many cannot properly digest milk from other mammals.


I read somewhere, but forgot where, that the DNA of a teacher in the area matches Cheddar man close enough to be a descendant. Someone was doing a DNA project, I’m not sure if it was the school or an outside researcher, and the teacher, along with some students, participated. I wish I could remember the details or where I saw it, maybe the BBC site.


Although these are some of the oldest bones found from which DNA has been extracted, I have read it is also believed his people travelled (British spelling) across the land-bridge joining mainland Britain to France, but there were other groups that survived the last ice age already living in the South West of the island.


I suggest that the assertions are mere speculation and hardly worth time spending on which I’m unfortunately doing right now!!


Skin color seems to be a very small of DNA coding. Archeologists have had no luck determining the skin color or dinosaurs, or if they even had feathers. Trying to guess human skin color based on DNA evidence is conjectural and very, very tentative. This article sounds like some scientist used tenuous data to write an article that would be guaranteed to give him/her name some publicity in scientific journals and the popular press.


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