A More Comprehensive Take on Ancestors
One of the things I find is that people really like to confuse recent familial relations that look very much like them with The Ancestors. We have (literally) millions of Ancestors of all skin hues, hair color and culture.
Here are some graphics that I like people to keep in mind when we talk about Ancestors.
In this graphic, really, seriously, think of those people as having dark skin and hair (although some Neanderthals may have had red hair) up until about the third row from the bottom (the last clear row). Eye color was probably variable with brown eyes and blue eyes along with the dark skin.
Like Cheddar Man, here, who was unearthed in Somerset in the UK. He lived about 10,000 years ago, just before agriculture was invented in the current Middle East (about 5,000 years before agriculture reached the British Isles). In archaeology, this time period would be referred to as the Paleolithic or the Old Stone Age. We know what he looked like from DNA analysis.
If you’d like to know more about Cheddar Man this is a good article from the Guardian UK’s site: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/10/cheddar-man-changed-way-we-think-about-ancestors
After Cheddar Man’s time came the Neolithic or New Stone Age (6,000 BCE to about 2,200 BCE), when agriculture spread across Europe from the Middle East.
What did the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge look like?
Probably like Whitehawk Woman, with dark skin, hair and eyes:
These are genetically the same people who built Newgrange and other Megalithic sites in Ireland. Again, DNA analysis provides us with this information. Would you like to know about Whitehawk Woman? This article has more details: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47938188 .
This is a link to an Irish documentary about these Megalithic builders. It is from earlier this year (2020) and so the DNA analysis is cutting edge. It’s also in Irish, so unless you’re an Irish speaker make sure to turn the subtitles on! If you’re interested in Irish history, the subsequent documentaries in the series are worth watching as well.
This is a depiction of late Stone Age peoples found in Scandinavia by Tom Bjorklund. His art is based on genetic evidence. Note the range of skin and hair color as well as hair texture. His art is quite informative. He does a lot of reconstructive art for museums and archaeology studies, including art of Neanderthals, Denisovans…both human species that are, you guessed it, Ancestors!
What did Bronze Age (2,200 BCE to 800 BCE) Europeans look like? Probably lighter skin, with blue or brown eyes. At least in Ireland the Megalith builders were replaced by the early Bronze Age by other peoples. There is now evidence that a plague or other sickness effected the population there. There was genetic mixing, meanings these people, the dark skinned Megalith builders, are the Ancestors of modern Europeans as well as these lighter skinned Bronze Age folk.
Here’s an article about a Bronze Age woman (shown above), dubbed Ava, unearthed in the Scottish Highlands: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/no-wait-real-ava-bronze-age-woman-scottish-highlands-180970950/
She has slightly darker skin than Scots today, dark hair and dark eyes. An earlier recreation was made of her, before DNA analysis, with lighter skin, light hair and blue eyes. Definitely some bias coming into play, there.
Why is this important? On the personal side, visualizing who you’re working with can be important. As a collective, and this is the more important reason, we have to come to terms, as a people, that our Ancestors did not always look like us and that they still have deep, unconditional love for us, their Descendants. As a descendant of recent, light skinned European people, my deeper Ancestors – and yours- all had dark skin. Those people who build Newgrange that I connect with so much had dark skin. And that we, all of us, are these people’s children. We show our Ancestors deep disrespect when we do not respect other people based solely on their skin color. It hurts them. If we truly want to work with our Ancestors, we must acknowledge ALL of them.
Cheddar Man with his modern-day descendant from the UK.