27 Jan 2014

Ancient European looks surprise scientists

9:48 pm on 27 January 2014

Scientists studying the well-preserved skeleton of a hunter-gatherer who died in northern Spain 7000 years ago have managed to sequence his entire genome.

Their findings have shed light on what ancient Europeans looked like - and there are some surprising results, the BBC reports.

The team found that this ancient man was most closely genetically related to people in Sweden and Finland. But while his eyes were blue, his genes reveal that his hair and skin were dark.

Scientists had thought the first Europeans became fair soon after they left Africa and moved to the continent about 45,000 years ago with far less light. It suggests that this change in skin colour happened much later than scientists expected.

The research, led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain, is published in the journal Nature.

The hunter-gatherer's genome also gave the team an insight into how humans had changed as they moved from foraging to farming.

The early European would have subsisted on a diet of mainly protein, and his DNA reveals that he was lactose-intolerant and unable to digest starch. These are traits that came after agriculture was adopted and people changed what they ate.