The First Britons Were Black, Scientists Find

by : Francesca Donovan on : 04 Feb 2018 21:07

It’s innate in human nature to want to know where we come from and who are ancestors were – and a new archaeological study has uncovered new evidence that will help us Brits understand our origins.


The earliest Britons were black-skinned, with dark curly hair and possibly blue eyes, new analysis of a 10,000-year-old Somerset skeleton by a team from the Natural History Museum and University College London shows.

The analysis, part of the UK’s ‘most ambitious and cutting edge Ancient DNA project to date’ unveils the face of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.


Britain oldest known complete skeleton, named ‘Cheddar Man’, was originally unearthed over a hundred years ago in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.


But now two distinguished Dutch paleontological model makers, the twins Alfons and Adrie Kennis, have recreated his face.

With the help of the latest technology in genetic sequencing – which would have been impossible just 10 years ago – have now allowed them to determine the colour of its skin, eyes, and hair.


The results, contrary to popular belief, show the founding generations of Great Britain owe more in appearance to Paleolithic Africans, from whom all humans descend.

Scientists said it proves commonly understood racial categories to be historically only ‘recent constructions’. Before Cheddar Man settled, there were up to nine failed colonisations of what we now call Britain.

But roughly 12,000 humans, along with Cheddar Man, thrived and their DNA now comprises roughly 10 per cent of the genetic make-up of most white people currently living in the UK, The Telegraph reports.


Dr Yoan Dieckmann, from University College London, who took part in the project, said:


The historical perspective that you get just tells you that things change, things are in flux, and what may seem as a cemented truth that people who feel British should have white skin, through time is not at all something that is an immutable truth.

It has always changed and will change.


Professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum, said:

The combination of quite dark skin and blue eyes is something that we don’t imagine is typical, but that was the real appearance of these people, something that’s quite rare today.

The results will be revealed by First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man which airs on Channel 4 on Sunday February 18.

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.

Topics: News


The Telegraph and 1 other
  1. The Telegraph

    The first Britons were black, Natural History Museum DNA study reveals

  2. Channel 4

    10,000 Years on, Channel 4 unveils the face of the 'First Brit'