Researchers Say Prehistoric Irish People Were Black, Had Blue Eyes

Young man, close-up, portrait

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A documentary revealed that the ancient Irish people had Black skin and blue eyes, according to Irish Times.

Scientists developed a genetic database of ancient Irish genomes from all periods of pre-history to understand the origins of the modern Irish gene pool. Geneticist Dr. Lara Cassidy told reporters last year they used techniques normally used in forensic criminal investigations to make these findings.

Researchers say these dark-skinned inhabitants lived along the coast of Burren as hunter-gatherers before moving inland to hunt boars and forage for nuts. They also learned that these prehistoric Irish people were eventually replaced by early farmers, who arrived on the island around 6,000 years ago. While the settlers' complexion was lighter than the early Irish people, they had a somewhat brownish or yellower pallor to their skin, according to reporters.

"We know now from ancient genomes that farming was accompanied by a whole group of people moving into the continent from the region now known as modern Turkey," Dr. Cassidy says. These migrants also brought cattle, sheep, goats, pottery, and housing structures to the land, she added.

The geneticist noted the Burren's unique geography helped preserved swathes of evidence from past settlements, including information about the Black hunter-gatherers and early farmers. She also believes there may have been a colonization event and a time when they co-existed. The last wave of settlers came around 4,000 years ago during a huge migration from the Steppe region of Russia into Western Europe.

“Only at that point do we see the establishment of the modern Irish gene pool as we know it today,” Dr. Cassidy says.

They weren't the first scientists to make this discovery, however. That credit goes to the geneticists at the University College London and the Natural History Museum, who discovered a Mesolithic-era skeleton in 2018. Lead researcher Dr. Dan Bradley found out the skeleton, later dubbed "Cheddar Man" may have had "dark to black skin," blue eyes, and curly hair.

Cheddar Man's tribe possibly migrated to Britain, Luxembourg, Hungary, and Spain before the end of the Ice Age thanks to skeleton remains with similar DNA discovered in those countries.

“The earliest Irish would have been the same as Cheddar Man and would have had darker skin than we have today,” Bradley told the Irish Post at the time.

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