Spanish researchers have unearthed surprising new evidence about what ancient Europeans looked like.
Genetic tests carried out on the remains of a caveman who lived around 7,000 years ago have revealed a mix of European and African traits, with dark skin and hair and blue eyes.
The human remains were found along with another skeleton belonging to two men in their early 30’s. They had been extremely well preserved in a deep cave in the Cantabrian Moutains in northwestern Spain.
“It’s a combination of features that no longer exists in Europe today. From a genome point of view, this man was European, but he had darker skin than current Europeans, combined with blue eyes,” says Professor Carles Lalueza-Fox, researcher at the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) in Barcelona.
One explanation could be that the lighter skin colour evolved much later than was previously assumed.
Another result of the DNA study reveals this hunter-gatherer was probably lactose intolerant and had more difficulty digesting starchy foods than the farmer who transformed diets and lifestyles.
“From now on we’re going to be able to reconstruct the genetic prehistory of Europe with unprecedented detail. In the coming years, we will very probably see many more genomes dating back to the Paleolithic, the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, the Copper Age, etc,” says Professor Lalueza-Fox.
Researchers hope to soon piece together the DNA of the other skeleton discovered in the cave.
Comparing the genome of the caveman to those of modern Europeans, the Spanish team found that his DNA most closely matched the genetic makeup of people living in northern Europe, in particular Sweden and Finland.