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Cheddar Man is the name given to the remains of a human male found in Gough's Cavemarker in Cheddar Gorgemarker, Somersetmarker, England. The remains date to approximately 7150 BC, and it appears that he died a violent death. It is Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton.

The remains were excavated in 1903, and currently reside in the Natural History Museummarker in London, with a replica in the "Cheddar Man and the Cannibals" museum in Cheddarmarker village.

However, his death remains a mystery, and there is presently no scientific evidence to suggest how he died, and any speculation based on scientifically investigated known practices which existed during this early period are inconclusive.

Mitochondrial DNA testing

In 1996, Bryan Sykes of Oxford Universitymarker first sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of Cheddar Man, with DNA extracted from one of Cheddar Man's molar. Cheddar Man was determined to have belonged to Haplogroup U5a, a branch of mitochondrial haplogroup U. U5a, the specific haplogroup of Cheddar Man, is known to be the oldest truly modern human (not Neanderthal) mtDNA haplogroup in Europe.

Bryan Sykes' research into Cheddar Man was filmed as he performed it. As a means of connecting Cheddar Man to the living residents of Cheddar village, he compared mitochondrial DNA taken from twenty living residents of the village to that extracted from Cheddar Man’s molar. It produced two exact matches and one match with a single mutation. The two exact matches were schoolchildren, and their names were not released. The close match was a history teacher named Adrian Targett.

Sykes argued that this modern connection to Cheddar Man (who died at least three thousand years before agriculture began in Britain) makes credible the theory that modern-day Britons are not all descended from Middle Eastern migratory farmers, but rather modern Britons are descended from ancient European Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherer tribes who much later on adopted farming.


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