DNA tests performed last week on the oldest complete skeleton discovered in Britain indicated that he had black skin and blue eyes. Named the Cheddar Man, the remains were unearthed 115 years ago in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, within the county of Somerset in South West England. As such, the finding suggests that the lighter skin characteristic of modern Europeans is a relatively recent phenomenon.
A project with the National Museum of Ireland has made similar findings for early Irish populations. Professor of Population Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Dan Bradley, said that researchers have compiled data from two individuals from over 6000 years ago that provide similar results as the Cheddar Man. The conclusion is that earliest Irish settlers would have had darker skin than we have today. The findings suggest that the DNA is linked to individuals from Spain and Luxembourg, who populated western European after the last Ice Age but before the farming era. They likely arrived by boat, ate fish, plants and nuts, and hunted wild boar.
Similarly, the Cheddar Man’s tribe migrated to Britain at the end of the last Ice Age and his DNA has been linked to individuals in today’s Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.
The pale skin in Ireland now is thought to be the result of thousands of years surviving in a climate where there’s very little sun.
The team of scientists at Trinity College Dublin hope to have their research fully completed within the year.