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DNA reveals blue-eyed 7000-year-old human had dark skin

Scientists working on the remains of a Mesolithic man, who lived in Spain around 7,000 years ago, have discovered something very surprising. With his piercing blue eyes and dark complexion, the ancient hunter-gatherer had a combination of African and European genes.

Scientists from the United States, Europe and Australia made this astonishing discovery after analysing ancient DNA that was extracted from his tooth.

The remains of this 7,000-year-old caveman, given the name La Brana 1, were discovered 5,000ft up in the mountains of north-west Spain way back in 2006. The discovery provides scientists with an unprecedented glimpse of modern humans before the advent of agriculture and livestock farming. In other words, it gives an important insight into man’s genetic evolution.

Study leader Professor Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, said: “The biggest surprise was to discover that this individual possessed African versions in the genes that determine the light pigmentation of the current Europeans.”

CSIC researcher, who works at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (a joint centre of CSIC and the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), located in Barcelona, adds: “Even more surprising was to find that he possessed the genetic variations that produce blue eyes in current Europeans, resulting in a unique phenotype in a genome that is otherwise clearly northern European.”

The combination of African and European traits indicates that the racial transformation of modern humans happened long after they left Africa.

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Discovered in 2006, La Braña-Arintero site was excavated by Julio Manuel Vidal Encinas, archeologist of the Council of Castilla y León. The cave, located in a cold mountainous area with a steady temperature and 1,500 meters below the sea level, helped in the preservation of the DNA from two individuals found inside in an exceptional way, and they were called La Braña 1 and La Braña 2.

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