The Discovery Of An Ancient Skeleton Now Known As Cheddar Man Poses The Question, "Were Our Ancestors Cannibals?"
At the start of the 19th. century a most incredible discovery was made at
the Cheddar Gorge caves. It became known as Cheddar Man and was a complete
It was soon realised that the bones were extremely old.
Scientists were able to estimate that he had lived around 7150 years before Christ was born. The bones found in Cheddar Gorge were therefore over 9000 years old!
Apparently, the only reason that the skeleton is complete is that he
wasn`t cannibalised when he died! Although the cause of his death is not
certain, he apparently met a violent end as there is a large hole in his skull
consistent with being bashed over the head!
The place where the bones were unearthed in Gough`s cave in 1903 is now known as "Skeleton Pit." The site can be seen when you visit the caves.
The valuable bones are now kept in London at the Natural History Museum. However, there is a replica on display in The Museum of Prehistory in Cheddar Gorge very close to where he was discovered.
Scattered around the same cave were the butchered remains of three adult humans and two children, all were from the same period.
Marks found on the bones indicate that the flesh was scraped or cut off with sharp instruments.
This is thought to be strong evidence of cannibalism.
Our ancestor, Cheddar Man and his fellow humans were cannibals!
This makes sense in many ways. As there was no form of farming or raising of
livestock at that time, mankind was a hunter-gatherer who killed his food to
survive. It follows that man himself was a source of nourishment to his fellow
All a bit grisly really!
In 1996 a most amazing experiment was started by Bryan Sykes of Oxford
University. He obtained the DNA from one of the teeth belonging to the
skeleton. He was able to categorise this DNA into a group that had already been
found in other Mesolithic Age human remains.
He didn`t stop there, accompanied by a film crew, Sykes came to Cheddar with the DNA taken from Cheddar Man and tried to match it to DNA taken from twenty living residents of this small Somerset town.
Incredibly there were two exact matches and a match with a single mutation!
The two exact matches were schoolchildren whose names were not released. The
close match was a history teacher named Adrian Targett.
To find these descendants of a man who had met his violent death 9000 years previously was truly remarkable.
But as one local later said, "I`m not surprised. Its so beautiful round here the family decided to stay for a while!"