Skeleton of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer

A DNA test of a 7,000 year old tooth of European hunter-gatherer has given scientists evidence that unlike most representations of European hunters with blond hair and blue eyes, Mesolithic people actually had an unusual mix of blue eyes, black or brown hair, and dark skin. Also, much like many black people today, testing shows that the people were probably lactose intolerant.

From The Guardian:

“Before we started this work, I had some ideas of what we were going to find,” said Carles Lalueza-Fox, who led the study at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona. “Most of those ideas turned out to be completely wrong.”

The Spanish team started their work after a group of cavers stumbled upon two skeletons in a deep and complex cave system high up in the Cantabrian Mountains of northwest Spain in 2006. The human remains, which belonged to two men in their early 30s, had been extremely well preserved by the cool environment of the cave.

Carbon dating put the remains at around 7,000 years old, before farming had swept into Europe from the Middle East. The timing fitted with ancient artefacts found at the site, including perforated reindeer teeth that were strung and hung from the people’s clothing.

The scientists focused their efforts on the better preserved of the two skeletons. After several failed attempts, they managed to reconstruct the man’s entire genome from DNA found in the root of a third molar. It is the first time researchers have obtained the complete genome of a modern European who lived before the Neolithic revolution.

The DNA threw up a series of surprises. When Lalueza-Fox looked at the genome, he found that rather than having light skin, the man had gene variants that tend to produce much darker skin. “This guy had to be darker than any modern European, but we don’t know how dark,” the scientist said.

“You see a lot of reconstructions of these people hunting and gathering and they look like modern Europeans with light skin. You never see a reconstruction of a mesolithic hunter-gatherer with dark skin and blue eye colour,” Lalueza-Fox said. Details of the study are published in the journal, Nature.

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  • Dee D

    Any evolutionary biologist will tell you that “dark skin” does not necessarily mean black. Arabs were considered dark skinned up until the 19th century, and they are technically, next to the average European man or woman.
    However, if one of you were to read a book from 19th century are earlier and the phrase “dark skinned man” came up you all might initially think they are referring to a black man but that is simply not always the case.
    Dark skin usually just means darker than pale white skin, which can mean a variety of shades.

    • eve-audrey

      blablablabla dark skin is not really black blablabla i think you lost yourself on this site

    • Yolanda

      What’s wrong with this explanation? Why do you find it offensive?

  • watch white people come up with “caucasians are more evolved than black people because of the genetic mutations” *rolls eyes* I can already see someone using the fact that we were the first people in a negative way

    • eve-audrey

      that’s because they can’t handle the fact that being the first people on this planet there are lots of things we did before them. they are not more evolved just the result of a genetic mutation due to their environment.

    • Alf Beharie

      What a totally ridiculous statement! It doesn’t matter what race someone belongs to or where on Earth they currently come from, everyone of us originally evolved in Africa and at the exactly the same time!

    • Alf Beharie

      What do you mean “we were the first people”? That is a totally meaningless statement when you consider that the ancestors of every single Human alive on Earth today all evolved in Africa…Therefore, no matter what race you belong to or where on Earth you live, we can all claim to be equally related to the first people on Earth! And because we have all been around just as long as each other, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Caucasians are “more evolved” than Negroids, but nether the less, evolution has changed Caucasians DNA by a factor of about 1/3rd from that of their Negroid cousins…You may roll your eyes, but it doesn’t change scientific fact.

  • Beautiful Mic

    Their dark skin hue doesn’t mean they were black. It is very well known that the first Caucasians to evolve were, indeed, brown/dark peoples. But they were not ‘Black’ by today’s definition. Just like the first dark/brown skinned non-Siddi inhabitants of East Indian were, also, not black – the Dravidians. Despite their skin tones, they were evolved into a different race from Bantu, San, Nilotic, and Cushite peopls of the African continent.

    • RObleu

      What is your definition of “black”? The term itself is not deemed scientific (it is a social/political construction). There are no human “races”. Even in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa, there are groups of people that scientifically do not fall under the traditional categories of “black” such as the San and the Ituri, who are genetically distinct from the Bantu.
      Also, you mention the original darker-skinned inhabitants of India such as the Dravidians but you failed to mention the Jawara.

    • Alf Beharie

      If there are no human races then there can be no such thing as the evils of racism, so I can understand why you choose to believe that. Problem is, you are completely wrong. There are indeed different races of Homo Sapiens Sapiens…Any good Anthropologist can tell a persons race simply by looking at the shape of their skull, without having to delve into complicated DNA comparisons. In fact, the specific biology of the various races can be markedly different. For instance, the development of the left and right hemispheres of the brains of Japanese Mongoloids happens in the exact reverse of the way Caucasian brains develop. i.e.: The left and right hemispheres of the brains of Japanese males develop the same way round as Caucasian females, whereas the left and right hemispheres of the brains of Japanese females develop the same way round as Caucasian males. This fundamental biological difference can help to explain why stereotypically, the Japanese as a whole are not very inventive people but they are very good at copying and improving other peoples ideas and inventions. Most of the important inventions they have improved that we now take for granted, such as in the field of electronics, were all dreamt up by the far more inventive minds of North European Caucasians. Small differences in DNA can add up to a huge difference anatomically. For instance, we share at least 99% of our DNA with Chimpanzees, yet it is clear we are completely different creatures to Chimps. The difference between Negroid and Caucasian DNA is about 0.3%, a surprisingly large figure. All Caucasians inherited up to 4-5% of their DNA from Neanderthals, whereas Negroids rarely show any Neanderthal inheritance in their DNA at all. Negroids often have Sickle Cell Anemia, an adaptation fostered through natural selection from the survivors of Malaria, but this biological difference is totally absent in Caucasians.