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Scientists examining the DNA of ancient remains find surprising new evidence of how early Europeans had dark skin and blue eyes.
Image: An artist’s impression of the face of a 7,000-year-old man, reconstructed from his skeleton.
His remains were discovered in a cold subterranean cave 5,000ft below sea level in the Cantabrian mountains of northwest Spain, where conditions are ideal for preserving DNA. Experts were astonished to find a combination of African and European genes in the ancient hunter gatherer who they christened La Brana 1. Scientists have unearthed surprising new evidence about what ancient Europeans looked like. Experts were shocked when genetic tests on a hunter-gatherer who lived 7,000 years ago found his dark hair and skin were combined with bright blue eyes.
It was previously thought that early Europeans were fair. The research has been led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Spain and is published in the journal Nature.
The lead author, Dr Carles Lalueza-Fox, said: “One explanation is that the lighter skin colour evolved much later than was previously assumed.”
Researchers were astonished to find a combination of African and European genes in the results on tests on a tooth. La Brana 1 was one of two unusually well preserved male skeletons unearthed from the La Brana-Arintero cave system near Leon in 2006. The scientists focused first on La Brana 1’s DNA because it was in a better condition. They hope to piece together the genome of the other man, La Brana 2, in due course. Both individuals lived in the Mesolithic period, which ended 5,000 years ago.