Vitamin D and skin pigmentation
What is the importance of the Cheddar Man?
Have your heard of the Cheddar Man?
He is not really a current figure of of influence at present, about as far removed from the Kardashians and Elon Musk as you could imagine.
Much rather, he is a figure of the past that is still firmly much in the present.
That is because the Cheddar Man was discovered in 1903 but is from an era of the British Isles which was over 10,000 years ago, these people are classed as being from the Mesolithic era.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, the Cheddar Man is the oldest complete human skeleton that has so far been found and unearthed in Britain and helps us take a look at the first collective of people that settles in the UK after the Ice Age.
And regardless of his age, he has been under constant scrutiny and study for over 100 years.
Initially it was thought that scientists would not have been able to extract DNA from the skeleton, yet as science and technology has moved on over the years and Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum and University College London have manged to analyze his genome.
The genome is the blueprint for a human and offers an insight in to their lives and environment.
The researchers have discovered that he was about 5’5″ tall and probably died in his early twenties by what seems like a violent death.
However, what is more interesting and has caused a bit of a stir is the fact that they have reconstructed what he would have looked like.
This includes physical attributes down to eye, hair type and skin color (pigmentation).
Being from Western Europe, the general rule of thought is that the man will be of white skin color…
The scientists have discovered that the Cheddar Man is closely related to other individuals of the similar era that have been unearthed in regions such as Spain, Luxembourg and Hungary.
All of these Mesolithic era people are known as Hunter Gatherer’s.
Europeans of the present day owe approximately 10% of their ancestry to these people, in fact when his DNA was researched in the 1990’s they found two matches of DNA with residents from the same village as Cheddar which is located in Somerset.
It is thought that the Cheddar Man would have been part of a wave of migrants that re-settled in Britain when the climate became more favorable.
At that period of time they were able to walk from mainland Europe when Britain was actually connected to the land mass and wasn’t separated by sea.
However, back to the reconstructed face…
We know that migrants from the Middle East around 6,000 years ago had brown eyes and pale skin which would have been absorbed in to the population as people recreated.
However, this man, has very brown or black skin, with curly black hair and blue eyes!
This was a good 4,000 years prior to the emergence of paler Middle Eastern migrants with brown eyes.
So, why is it that people from Britain are historically pale in skin color?
Apart from the influx of Middle Eastern migrants 6,000 years ago, it is thought the people from the Mesolithic era did gradually become paler due to their diet.
These people became farmers, being in the British Isles meant there was not a great deal of exposure to prolonged periods of sunlight.
Their diet which consisted mainly of cereals probably would not have provided the sufficient amounts of required vitamin D.
As a result, and this is the general consensus amongst scientists, they believe the lack of vitamin D in their diet led towards paler and lighter skin coloring that continues to this day for those indigenous Britons.