I recently did a DNA test to learn more about my ancestry and the results weren't too surprising. I always knew I was of Caucasian descent, and nothing in the test mentioned anything intriguing about my ancestors.
Now scientists say there's DNA evidence that some of the earliest settlers in Great Britain had dark skin and blue eyes. How they came to that conclusion is very interesting, and it really makes you ponder on the concept of race.
Scientists from Britain's Natural History Museum and University College London found a 10,000-year-old skull in an English cave. They drilled into the skull and extracted bone powder, which indicated that this ancient cave dweller had dark curly hair, dark skin, and blue eyes. They called this person "Cheddar Man."
"He reminds us that you can't make assumptions about what people looked like in the past based on what people look like in the present, and that the pairings of features we are used to seeing today aren't something that's fixed," Tom Booth, a postdoctoral researcher at the museum who worked on the project, said on the museum website.
So how did pale skin come to that region? It's likely it wasn't because of migration.
It's believed that humans living in northern regions in Europe developed lighter skin as an evolutionary advantage. Pale skin absorbs more sunlight, which produces more Vitamin D.
This vitamin is essential for healthy bones and maintaining proper phosphorous levels in the blood.
Cheddar Man isn't the first finding though. Ancient DNA samples from other European countries like Spain, Hungary, and Luxembourg revealed a similar genetic profile.
This ancient group of people are known as Western Hunter-Gatherers. It's believed they migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the last Ice Age.
"There are other data from hunter-gatherers who lived in western Europe, and they also show darker skin and light eyes, blue eyes," Dan Bradley, a professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, said on ABC News.
"Modern Europeans are a mixture of people like this, who are older hunter-gatherer inhabitants of western Europe, and people who came in with the advent of agriculture, and people who came from the east in the Bronze Age and who also brought new genetics into the region," he added.