Recent research led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, published in the journal Nature has shed fascinating new light on how the hunter-gatherers who lived in Europe some 7000 years ago might have looked.
Scientists were able to extract DNA from a tooth from a 7000 year old male human skeleton found in the La Brana cave in North West Spain. By sequencing the genome they found that the man had dark skin and hair, and blue eyes. Previously it was assumed that the early inhabitants of Europe had fair hair, a response to the migration out of Africa some 40,000 years ago into higher latitudes and lower UV radiation. These results suggest that the light skin characteristic of present-day Europeans has developed over the last 7000 years.
Genetically the man was most closely related to the present-day inhabitants of Sweden and Finland.
Moreover, since the man lived prior to the introduction of agriculture to Europe, he would have lived mainly on a protein diet. His genome indicates that he was lactose-intolerant and unable to digest starch. The ability to ingest milk, cheese and starch foods was developed after the population learned farming.