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Dublin: 16°C Wednesday 25 May 2022

Ol' Blue Eyes: 7,000-year-old caveman surprises scientists with his looks

Good hair for a hunter-gatherer, too.

The reconstruction of the 7,000-year-old man's face.
The reconstruction of the 7,000-year-old man's face.
Image: CSIC.es

IF YOU EVER wondered what your great-great granddad (times about two hundred) may have looked like, here you go.

Researchers in Spain have used modern technology to work out that a 7,000-year-old skeleton would have been a man with black hair and blue eyes when he was alive.

It is the earliest known person with blue eyes to be discovered, as the physical trait evolved relatively recently in human history.

It is the first time the the genome – all of the genes – of a hunter-gatherer has been mapped.

The man lived in the Mesolithic period, which lasted from 10,000 to around 5,000 years ago, and which ended with the advent of agriculture and livestock farming in the Neolithic era.

Scientists say the data shows that although the skeletal remains were found in northern Spain, the man’s genes indicate that he has a lot in common with people living in central and western Europe.

The DNA analysis found that although he was closely related to modern-day Scandinavians than any other group in Europe, he had the dark-skinned genes of an African person.

The scientists said the most unexpected fact about the man was that he had darker skin than expected.


“The biggest surprise was to discover that this individual possessed African versions in the genes that determine the light pigmentation of current Europeans, indicating he had dark skin, although we cannot know the exact tone,” said Carles Lalueza-Fox of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Spain.

“Even more surprising was to find that he possessed the genetic variations that produce blue eyes in current Europeans, resulting in a unique phenotype in a genome that is otherwise clearly northern European”.

The remains were found at a sit in Valdelugueros in northern Spain and details of the research has been published in the journal Nature.

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