Those, who believe the British people were all white, can change their thought now as scientists have revealed that the man – who lived in Britain 9,000 years ago – had dark skin, blue eyes and dark curly hair.

The skeleton of the first ‘Briton’ was discovered in Gough’s Cave in Somerset in 1903. Initially, scientists thought that the “Cheddar Man” had pale skin and fair hair. However, the genome of Cheddar Man suggests he had dark skin. According to the London-based Natural History Museum, the Cheddar Man’s DNA analysis revealed that he was the ancestor of modern day Britons.

Researchers claimed that the Europeans had pigmentation on their skin 7,000 years ago. The skin colour of Cheddar Man’s descendants, who used to live in low sunlight areas, started to become brown gradually. After recreating the Cheddar Man’s face with the help of 3-D printing technology, researchers came to know that he had dark blue eyes, dark hair and dark skin. They found that Chester Man’s ancestors arrived in Britain around 11,700 years ago.

Yoan Diekmann, the computational biologist at University College London, explained that Cheddar Man’s Middle Eastern origin suggests that his ancestors first arrived in the Middle East from Africa and then moved to Europe. Later, they reached Britain after crossing the ancient land bridge – called Doggerland – which connected Britain to mainland Europe.

As far as skin colour is concerned, Diekmann said that the connection – often drawn between Britishness and whiteness – was “not an immutable truth. It has always changed and will change”.

Interestingly, researchers revealed the Cheddar Man’s ‘real’ identity at a time when Europe is facing difficulties in tackling the migrant issue. Experts at Natural History Museum are of the opinion that “Britain was periodically settled and then cleared during ice ages until the end of the last glacial period about 11,700 years ago”. And since then, the country has been inhabited continuously. The latest results further suggest that each wave of migrants wasn’t seeded from the same population in mainland Europe. From the skin colour, hair colour and texture, eye colour and skin tone of Cheddar Man, researchers came to the conclusion that the root of handful of genetic variants linked to reduced pigmentation widespread in the modern European populations lied in Africa. It means Cheddar Man’s ancestors had “dark to black” skin tone, but combined with blue eyes.

Scientists argued that populations, living in Europe, became lighter-skinned over time as pale skin absorbs more sunlight in order to produce sufficient Vitamin D. According to the latest findings, it seems that pale skin emerged later, possibly when the people started farming, thus, obtaining Vitamin D through dietary sources. However, Cheddar Man lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. He might have made sharp blades from flints for culling animals, or carving bows, arrows and harpoons for fishing.

Perhaps, the discovery will help Europeans overcome the racist mentality and resolve the migrant issue through peaceful manner, as (at least) some of their ancestors were ‘migrants’.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]