Well, well, well. It’s always nice to know from where we originated, but one particular scientific discovery that was unveiled Wednesday at London’s Natural History museum took social media by storm.
It was revealed that one of the United Kingdom’s earliest men, nicknamed “Cheddar Man,” was actually dark-skinned.
You hear that? That was the sound of racists’ heads exploding.
But before we have a field day with them, let’s get back to the science-y stuff.
According to the BBC, researchers from the museum extracted DNA from Cheddar Man’s 10,000-year-old skeleton—the oldest fully preserved skeleton in the United Kingdom—and passed it on to scientists at the University College London, who used science and technology to create a facial reconstruction showing what Cheddar Man would have looked like.
Turns out, he would have had dark-brown or black skin, dark hair that was likely to be curlier than average and blue eyes.
Cheddar Man’s skeleton was unearthed in 1903 in Gough’s Gave, which is located in Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge (thus his nickname). He would have been short by modern-day standards, approximately 5 feet 5 inches, and probably died in his early 20s.
“I’ve been studying the skeleton of Cheddar Man for about 40 years,” Chris Stringer, the museum’s research leader in human origins, told the BBC. “So to come face-to-face with what this guy could have looked like—and that striking combination of the hair, the face, the eye color and that dark skin: something a few years ago we couldn’t have imagined, and yet that’s what the scientific data show.”
OK, now back to the racists. Because Twitter stays ready so it doesn’t have to get ready, it’s worth mentioning that people were just waiting for people to be big mad about the fact that the early Briton had dark skin ... especially considering the heightened racism and xenophobia that have been recorded since the Brexit vote.
So if Cheddar Man was dark-skinned, where did these white Brits come from, you might ask?
According to the BBC, there’s an explanation, including possibly the cereal-based diet that used to be consumed some thousands of years ago:
Pale skin probably arrived in Britain with a migration of people from the Middle East around 6,000 years ago. This population had pale skin and brown eyes and absorbed populations like the ones Cheddar Man belonged to.
No-one’s entirely sure why pale skin evolved in these farmers, but their cereal-based diet was probably deficient in Vitamin D. This would have required agriculturalists to absorb this essential nutrient from sunlight through their skin.
“There may be other factors that are causing lower skin pigmentation over time in the last 10,000 years. But that’s the big explanation that most scientists turn to,” Mark Thomas, a geneticist from UCL told the BBC
The news of Cheddar Man and his dark skin tone comes as a beam of light at a time when across the pond, TV presenter and producer Josh Gates was trying to convince us that Queen Nefertiti had pale skin, prompting many on Black Twitter to ask: Harpo, who dis woman?
As VH1 notes, Gates was promoting his new special on the famous Egyptian queen and popped onto the Today show to show off a bust based on her DNA.
It didn’t go well.
What a time to be alive. Prehistoric Brits had “dark to black” skin, while a queen of Egypt is depicted with pale skin—and social media, as always, is the gift that keeps on giving.