Old blue eyes: What ancient DNA reveals about a 7,000-year-old hunter-gatherer

The 7,000-year-old skeleton of a hunter-gatherer with blue eyes.

This is the skeleton of the 7,000-year-old hunter-gatherer whose genome was recently sequenced, revealing that he had dark skin like his African ancestors, but blue eyes that would become widespread among his European descendants.

He was a low-carb guy and lactose intolerant, we know, because he carried the ancestral forms of genes involved in breaking down lactose and starch and so was not good at digesting those things.

But his people had already evolved immune system adaptations to resist tuberculosis, pneumonia and malaria, judging from mutations in the relevant genes.

The remains were discovered in 2006 at the La Braña-Arintero cave site in northwest Spain, but sequencing of the nuclear DNA was not published until January 2014.

Source: Derived immune and ancestral pigmentation alleles in a 7,000-year-old Mesolithic European by Eske Willerslev, Carles Lalueza-Fox & others, Nature (2014)

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