The first modern Briton had "dark to black" skin, new analysis of his 10,000-year-old remains has revealed.
The scientists from London's Natural History Museum and University College London (UCL) analysed DNA from an nearly complete Homo sapiens skeleton, known as Cheddar Man after it was found in a cave in Cheddar Gorge in south-western England in 1903.
"The earliest Irish would have been the same as Cheddar Man and would have had darker skin than we have today", Prof Bradley said.
But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.
Cheddar Man shows us that's not the case.
They would then have travelled west into Europe, before crossing the ancient land bridge called Doggerland which connected Britain to continental Europe.More news: Asparagus can unfold most cancers, say scientists
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The Cheddar man skeleton was discovered in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge in 1903. All rights reserved.How Cheddar Man met his death remains a mystery, and although a hole in his skull suggests violence, it is also possible that he was suffering from a bone infection at the time.
The results will be featured in an upcoming film, "First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man", to be released on February 18 by Channel 4. While Britain was populated and abandoned by humans during earlier periods, archaeologists think that humans lived on the island continuously from Cheddar Man's time through to present day.
Model makers, Adrie and Alfons Kennis, used a hi-tech scanner to render Cheddar Man's skull in full three-dimensional detail, fleshing it out with facial features based on the results of the scientific research. The genetic material was remarkably well preserved, which the team attributes to the fact that Cheddar Man was in a cave for so long. The discovery of Cheddar Man's dark skin shows "that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all", he told The Guardian. For skin tone, there are a handful of genetic variants linked to reduced pigmentation, including some that are very widespread in European populations today. Pale eyes apparently evolved in early Europeans before pale skin, which emerged after the advent of agriculture, he said.
"Until recently it was always assumed that humans quickly adapted to have paler skin after entering Europe about 45,000 years ago", Natural History Museum researcher Tom Booth said. "Pale skin is better at absorbing UV light and helps humans avoid vitamin D deficiency in climates with less sunlight".
Much to the chagrin of some racists, it's just not reality.