Cheddar Man

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

Excavated in 1903, the remains are kept by the Natural History Museum in London, but are not currently on display. A replica of the skeleton is exhibited in the "Cheddar Man and the Cannibals" museum in Cheddar village. The death of Cheddar Man remains a mystery. A hole in his skull suggests violence, and Gough's Cave was used for cannibalism, trophy display or secondary burial by pre-historic humans.[1] Speculation based on scientifically investigated known ritual or warfare practices which existed during this early period is inconclusive.

Mitochondrial DNA testing[edit]

In 1996, Bryan Sykes of Oxford University first sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of Cheddar Man, with DNA extracted from one of Cheddar Man's molars. Cheddar Man was determined to have belonged to Haplogroup U5, a branch of mitochondrial Haplogroup U, which has also been found in other Mesolithic human remains.[2] Sykes obtained DNA from the 9,000-year-old Cheddar Man's tooth and from a 12,000-year-old Cheddar tooth from the same cave.[3]

Bryan Sykes's research into Cheddar Man was filmed as he performed it in 1997. As a means of connecting Cheddar Man to the living residents of Cheddar village, he compared mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) taken from 20 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: schoolteacher Adrian Targett. Other members of the Targett family still live in the same area of Britain, 9,000 years later.[4] The two exact matches were schoolchildren, and their names were not released. They, like anyone else carrying haplogroup U5 today, share an ancestor with Cheddar Man of many thousands of years ago through his maternal line.[5][6]

In May 2013, Craig Dent, from Melbourne, Australia travelled to Cheddar Gorge to visit Gough's Cave following mtDNA testing which confirmed that he too was a descendant of Cheddar Man. Craig Dent also met with Adrian Targett at the Cave of their common ancestor.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bello, Silvia (2011). "Earliest Directly-Dated Human Skull-Cups.". PLoS ONE 6 (2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017026. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  2. ^ B. Bramanti et al, Genetic Discontinuity Between Local Hunter-Gatherers and Central Europe’s First Farmers, Science, vol. 326. no. 5949 (October 2009), pp. 137-140 doi:10.1126/science.1176869; H. Malmstrom et al, Ancient DNA Reveals Lack of Continuity between Neolithic Hunter-Gatherers and Contemporary Scandinavians, Current Biology, vol. 19 (Nov 2009), pp. 1–5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.017
  3. ^ Sykes, Brian, Blood of the Isles (Bantam, 2006) pages 5-12
  4. ^ Nuthall, Keith (9 March 1997). "There's no place like home, says 'son of Cheddar Man'". 1997 (London: The Independent). Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  5. ^ SARAH LYALL, "Tracing Your Family Tree to Cheddar Man's Mum", New York Times, 24 Mar 1997, accessed 23 Mar 2010
  6. ^ Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve, (Corgi 2002), chap. 12. ISBN 0-552-14876-8
  7. ^ Fitting venue for Cheddar cave-man family get together | Western Daily Press