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These facial reconstructions reveal 40,000 years of English ancestry

These facial reconstructions reveal 40,000 years of English ancestry As the U.K. wrestles with issues of identity and nationalism around Brexit, a new exhibit is putting fresh faces on the region's ancient residents. 3 MINUTE READ


Last year, the dark-skinned, blue-eyed facial reconstruction of Cheddar Man, a 10,000-year-old British resident, made international headlines and sparked discussions about “native” identity in a nation grappling with Brexit and issues of migration.

Now, a new exhibit is revealing the faces of seven more ancient “locals” from the coast of southern England, and science is confirming that the history of the region is much more complicated than we once thought.

The faces of the seven Britons, reconstructed from archaeological remains spanning 40,000 years, are being put on display Saturday at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery as part of a larger exhibit on the region’s history.

Five of the seven individuals are true “locals,” forensically reconstructed from skulls excavated around Brighton in the southeastern county of Sussex. The most modern “local,” a 40-something man excavated during building construction in the 1980s, dates to the Anglo-Saxon period, a time when England was first unified under one king, explains Richard Le Saux, the museum’s senior keeper of collections.

The most ancient natives are a Neanderthal woman and an early modern man. Their facial reconstructions are based on remains from elsewhere in Europe, but artifacts found in the Brighton area show that both were local residents some 40,000 years ago.

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