The first modern Briton had “dark to black” skin, groundbreaking new analysis of his 10,000-year-old remains has revealed.
Britain's oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough's Cave in Somerset.
But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.
Previous reconstructions of Cheddar Man, which were not based on DNA data, depicted him with a lighter skin tone.
Yet research by evolution and DNA specialists suggests the pigmentation associated with northern European ancestry is a more recent development.
The research and remodelling process was documented for Channel 4 programme The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man.
Researchers Professor Ian Barnes and Dr Selina Brace extracted DNA data from bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull's inner ear bone.
They scanned the skull and a 3D model was produced by “paleo artists” Alfons and Adrie Kennis.
The twins, who have created reconstructions for museums around the world, spent three months working on Cheddar Man.
Cheddar Man, thought to have died in his twenties and have had a relatively good diet, lived in Britain when it was almost completely depopulated about 300 generations ago.
Although previous populations had settled in Britain long before his arrival, they were wiped out before him and he marked the start of continuous habitation on the island.
Genetically, he belonged to a group of people known as the “Western Hunter-Gatherers”, Mesolithic-era individuals from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.
His ancestors migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the Ice Age. Britain has been inhabited ever since and today about 10 per cent of White British people are descended from the group.
Alfons said: “People define themselves by which country they’re from, and they assume that their ancestors were just like them. And then suddenly new research shows that we used to be a totally different people with a different genetic makeup.
“People will be surprised, and maybe it will make immigrants feel a bit more involved in the story. And maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. We are all immigrants.”