A British history teacher discovers he shares DNA with "Cheddar Man," the skeleton of a Stone Age hunter-gatherer who lived in southwestern England some 10,000 years ago.
Found in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge in 1903, Cheddar Man is the oldest complete skeleton to be discovered in the UK.
This prehistoric man has long been hailed as the first modern Briton who lived around 7,150 BC.
As per carbon dating results, this ancient man is believed to have lived around 10,000 years ago, during the Mesolithic period.
Cheddar Man's DNA
In 1997, scientists from Oxford University's Institute of Molecular Medicine studied mitochondrial DNA extracted from one of Cheddar Man's molar teeth.
From this, scientists were able to extract a full genome — a complete set of genes — which revealed the Cheddar Man's actual skin color, striking blue eyes, wide cheekbones, delicate chin, and family nose.
Scientists then compared the DNA with samples of mitochondrial DNA from the cheek cells of 20 local people whose families had been known to have lived in Cheddar for numerous generations.
Surprisingly, they found a surviving descendent of Cheddar Man in a groundbreaking discovery.
Separated By 10,000 Years But Linked By DNA
After DNA analysis, scientists discovered that one of the local people in Cheddar "has almost a perfect match to Cheddar Man's DNA."
Adrian Targett's DNA, a retired history teacher — who was 42 years old at the time of the discovery — was determined to match that of Cheddar Man.
According to research, Targett's family line had persisted in the Cheddar Gorge area for around nine millennia. Their genes were passed from mother to daughter through what is known as mitochondrial DNA which is inherited from the egg.
What this means is that Targett and Cheddar Man have a maternal ancestor in common.
Following the discovery, Targett said:
"There is definitely a resemblance [with the new reconstruction of Cheddar Man] when you look across photos of my cousins."
Most of Targett's extended family, over 40, remain in Somerset today.
And it's no surprise Cheddar Gorge remains Britain's prime site for Palaeolithic human remains.
Targett's descendants are believed to have arrived in Britain about 11,700 years ago at the end of the last ice age.
Cheddar Man was buried alone in a chamber near a cave mouth. But it's not just Targett who has links with him. For many modern Britons, Cheddar Man's true face offers a uniquely close DNA encounter with their past.
Also, most modern Britons draw about 10 percent of their genetic ancestry from the West European hunter-gatherer population from which Cheddar Man sprang.