The first Britons were black, a cutting-edge scientific analysis shows has confirmed. The researchers this week revealed a facial model of a fossilized Stone Age hunter-gatherer who died around what is now the English town of Cheddar, in Somerset – for which he is named Cheddar Man.
The study by University College London (UCL) and Natural History Museum researchers reveals that a Briton from 10,000 years ago had dark brown skin and blue eyes.
It emerges that the Cheddar Man had blue eyes, dark coloured curly hair and ‘dark to black’ skin pigmentation. Previously, many had assumed that he had reduced skin pigmentation.
The discovery suggests that the lighter pigmentation now considered to be a defining feature of northern Europe is a far more recent phenomenon. Before the people with lighter pigmentation arrived in Britain, the place was already inhabited by black people.
The pioneering work was carried out by a team of UCL scientists, Natural History Museum Human Evolution and DNA specialists, and the world’s foremost prehistoric model makers, for a new Channel 4 documentary, “First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man”. It will air on Channel 4 on Sunday 18th February.
Professor Mark Thomas of UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment, one of the researchers who analysed Cheddar Man’s DNA sequences to establish aspects of his appearance, said: “Cheddar Man’s genetic profile places him with several other Mesolithic-era Europeans from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg whose DNA has already been analysed. These ‘Western Hunter-Gatherer’s’ migrated into Europe at the end of the last ice age and the group included Cheddar Man’s ancestors.”
Today, around 10% of indigenous British ancestry can be linked to that population.
Prof Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, who first excavated at Gough’s Cave 30 years ago, said: “I first studied ‘Cheddar Man’ more than 40 years ago, but could never have believed that we would one day have his whole genome – the oldest British one to date! To go beyond what the bones tell us and get a scientifically-based picture of what he actually looked like is a remarkable (and from the results quite surprising!) achievement.”
Reacting to the study, Lee Meta Jasper, former Co-Chair of BARAC UK, and a prominent UK race relations activist, said: “Black people are the indigenous people of Britain. Let the implications of that profound scientific fact, sink in and resonate allowing its full implications to soak deep into your mind.”
He added: “First Britons were Africans, not white people. And I’m naming these first Black Brits, Africanus Britannicus. This is our land. Africans were its first people. We are the original British. Somebody call the Queen.”