Professor Ian Barnes explains how the people who lived on the British Isles thousands of years ago transformed into the the population that live in the UK today. Cutting-edge scientific technology confirmed earlier in 2018 that Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, had dark brown skin and blue eyes. This caused a social media storm, angering some groups who said the findings were incorrect. Ian argues that such factions were upset due to their own inaccurate narratives of racial continuity. Ian is a Research Leader at the Natural History Museum, where he focuses on the investigation of ancient biomolecules to resolve questions in archaeology, palaeontology and evolutionary biology. He has degrees in Archaeological Science (from Bradford) and Molecular Ecology (from York) and for the last 20 years he has been heavily involved in the development of ancient DNA. Recently, his major focus has been on the role of adaptation and migration in the human settlement of the British Isles. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Ian Barnes

Research leader and ancient DNA specialist

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