‘Cheddar Man,’ Britain’s oldest skeleton, had dark skin; and he has living descendants still living in the same area, DNA analysis revealed.
The remains of a man were discovered in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England, and were given the name Cheddar Man.
Cheddar Man was discovered around the turn of the twentieth century and is thought to be from the Mesolithic era. Cheddar Man appears to have received little attention, and he was most likely just another prehistoric relic among many.
Stalagmites and stalactites in Gough’s cave. © Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
However, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that one of the most astonishing discoveries about this prehistoric person was made: it was discovered that he had a living descendent living in the same location.
In 1903, Cheddar Man was discovered. The remains of this prehistoric man were discovered 20 meters (65 feet) inside Gough’s Cave, the largest of Cheddar Gorge’s 100 caves, beneath a layer of stalagmite, which was then covered by another layer of more recent material.
Cheddar Man was discovered buried alone in the mouth of a deep cave, and dating results indicate that he lived around 9000 years ago, during the Mesolithic period. Since his discovery, it appears that little research has been done on Cheddar Man, and he may be considered a minor person.
In 1914, 11 years after Cheddar Man’s discovery, an essay titled “The Cheddar Man: A Skeleton of Late Paleolithic Date” was published.
Aladdin’s Cave, a chamber and mirror pool inside Gough’s Cave. © Image Credit: Public Domain
The assignment of Cheddar Man to the Late Paleolithic period, some thousand years earlier to the Mesolithic period in which he is now assumed to have lived, is one of the aspects in the title that may strike a reader immediately.
The measurement of Cheddar Man’s skull was one of the analyses performed by the paper’s authors. These measurements were then matched to those of other prehistoric skull fossils. Aside from it, other skeletal remnants such as teeth and limb bones were examined.
The face of Cheddar Man. © Image Credit: EPA
The DNA of Cheddar Man
A surviving descendent of Cheddar Man was discovered in 1997, according to reports. DNA was discovered in the pulp cavity of one of Cheddar Man’s molars, according to the findings. The DNA was tested at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University.
The DNA of 20 local people whose families had been known to have lived in Cheddar for numerous generations was then compared to the results of the research. One of these people was identified as a Cheddar Man descendant.
Family of the Cheddar Man
Adrian Targett’s DNA was determined to match that of Cheddar Man, who was 42 years old at the time of the discovery. This genetic imprint is claimed to have been passed down from mother to child, according to research. In other words, Targett and Cheddar Man have a maternal ancestor in common.
It should be noted that Targett was not the only member of his family who refused to leave his ancestral home. His extended family reportedly numbered 46 people, with the majority of them remaining in the Somerset area.
Mr Targett, a 42-year-old history teacher in Cheddar, Somerset, has been shown by DNA tests to be a direct descendant, by his mother’s line, of “Cheddar Man”. © Image Credit: Public Domain
It should be noted that, while Cheddar Man is the most well-known collection of human remains discovered in Cheddar Gorge, he is not the only one. According to one study, the site is “Britain’s prime site for Paleolithic human remains.”
Several decades ago, another set of well-known human remains was unearthed. The skulls of two people and a three-year-old child were used to create these three cups. Several years ago, these remains were re-examined, and it was discovered that manufacturing skull cups was a traditional craft and that the skulls were gathered after their owners died naturally.
In addition, numerous human bones were discovered with traces of butchery, indicating that these archaic individuals committed cannibalism.
A Paleolithic human skull from Gough’s Cave. © Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons