The idea that the first Briton was white has been seared into our collective consciousness, fuelling debates and senses of superiority. But where are those arguments today? The unveiling of the new and improved cheddar man, the oldest known British skeleton, depicts dark skin, blue eyes and wavy (dare I say curly) hair. To look at the bust figure one would assume that he was… black! The initial reaction was of course an overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction. On some deeper level I had always hoped the Roman Historian Pliny was right and that the Britain’s he encountered were black. However with the overwhelming narrative of white Britain I could not help but associate British with whiteness. To know however, that cheddar man is and was scientifically black shifts the very foundation of what is means to be British.
The beauty of the cheddar man’s fresh look is the discussions of race it has generated. Yes, we can laugh and wonder what the British far-right movements will do now with this latest information. But what is more important is that cheddar man reinforces the knowledge that race is nothing more than a social construct. While the conversations on the colour of his skin persist, the fact remains that he proves that Great Britain is a nation of immigration and he adds to the discussion of racial identity.
To find out more about the cheddar man check out: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/cheddar-man-face-first-modern-briton-revealed-pioneering-research-natural-history-museum-alfons-a8198066.html