My Blue Eyes

Cheddar Man done in pastel by Wendy Harty September 2020

Cheddar dragged his battered body into the cave. To do this he had used all his strength and stamina. Cheddar had been caught out in a storm; the lightening boomed, receding and ricocheting with echoes answering throughout the hills. Cheddar had almost made it to the cave when an avalanche of rocks loosened above him. A rock caught the back of his head toppling him with his leg twisted beneath him. The pain washed over him, black waves of nausea and weakness overtook him. Cheddar knew he had to reach shelter. It was as far as he made it and he receded into unconsciousness.

The sun on Cheddar’s ancendent grandfather’s dark skin felt good but also caused the ice sheets to melt. Rivelets ran down the mountains from the glaciers. They came together to make streams that were starting to overflow. A cascading waterfall bounded over rocks and landed in a clear pool. Great great grandfather harpooned a fish. The fish would be the last meal here in this place. The flooding was worse. It was time to move. Out of Africa his ancestors, hunter-gatherers, had trekked, cohabited with Middle-Eastern farmers and followed the herds until the tribe mixed with a roving Scandinavian race. Now the ice age flooding was pushing them to higher ground. Southwest his tribe traveled, a nomadic spirited people hunting and migrating with the seasons. Along the way they continued to exist by hunting. They fashioned spears and bows and arrows and spent hours foraging for wild berries. Across a land bridge, the sea lapping on its shores the tribe trooped.

They stopped at a gorge. Today we would marvel at the stark cliff faces and stunning views. 10,000 years years ago or about 7500 B.C. it was just what the tribe was looking for: numerous caves, fresh water springs, and dense forests teeming with wild animals. Here they stayed for over 1000 years, slowly becoming less hunter-gatherers and farmers instead. Cheddar Man with his blue eyes, wide cheekbones, delicate chin and dark blue black skin was one of them. Responsible for his intriguing blue eyes was Gene HERC2/OCA2 which came through his matriarchal ancestral side from Southern Sweden. From this western European population 10% of British people would trace their ancestors from which came Cheddar Man.

In 1903, Cheddar’s bones were found in the cave called Gough’s Cave, Somerset, England. The hole in his skull had certainly contributed to his demise as well as his broken leg broken in three places. My new ethnicity estimate came today. This latest ethnicity estimate is 29% England and Northwestern Europe. I don’t know if I have Cheddar’s gene, but my eyes are blue.

The land bridge is now called Doggerland. It is now submerged beneath the North Sea, that connected Britain to Europe. It was a rich habitat with Mesolithic humans habituating it. Remains of mammoths, lions, tools and weapons have been dredged up. The North Sea and the British Isles were covered with glacial ice. The climate became warmer. Streams, rivers, marshes and lakes formed. It was a rich hunting, fowling and fishing ground. As sea levels rose the land began to tilt as the huge weight of ice lessened. Doggerland eventually became submerged, but not until Cheddar Man’s relatives walked across it.

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