When I was traveling a few weeks ago through Somerset, I took a trip to a fantastic site – the subject of today’s post.
The site was Cheddar Gorge in Cheddar, a place of particular interest to Archaeologists. Whilst the cave matured cheese is very tasty, when I went to the caves at Cheddar, it was something else that stole my attention. There are caves at Cheddar that show evidence of human remains – dating back to the Mesolithic age, and in one cave (called Gough’s cave) there was one find that would fascinate Archaeologists for years to come. This find was a skeleton, one of a young man who appeared to have died a violent death aged about 20 years old. The skeleton was excavated in 1903, and it is believed to be the oldest complete skeleton. He was fairly short (by today’s standards) – 5 ft 5 in, and here is the fascinating part, where Archaeology really kicks in, so to speak. . In 2018, a team from the Natural History Museum of London extracted DNA from bone in the skeleton, and used it to build up a picture of what the young man may have looked like.
As Archaeologists studied the skeleton, they picked up an astonishing amount of information about Cheddar man (as he is known) The genetic markers showed he had medium dark skin, blue eyes, and was lactose intolerant! This seems to be fairly common in the western European population at the time, though today the blue eyes and darker skin may seem a striking combination.
There is a darker side to the story of Cheddar man. When Archaeologists were examining the skeleton, they found a large number of knife marks on the bones, cuts similar to that found on animal bones that had been butchered.
It appeared that for some reason, at least parts of Cheddar man had been eaten. Why? Nobody really knows. Food was plentiful in Cheddar at the time Cheddar man was alive, so it seems unlikely that it was out of necessity. Was it some kind of grisly ritual? Perhaps you have an idea.
Until next time, Stay Curious!