In north-west Spain, even after seven millennia, a man’s DNA was well preserved by the atmosphere of a cool, dry cave. He would have been a hunter-gatherer, equipped with bone and stone tools and fur clothing. What might surprise us most about La Brana is not that he was different from us but that he was almost the same. His genome reveals a few minor distinctions from modern Europeans – unsurprisingly, he was likely lactose-intolerant, since he lived before the local domestication of the cow. But 7,000 years is the blink of an eye in evolutionary time. If La Brana had been adopted by a modern family, he could have walked among us, and lived as an unremarkable citizen of London or New York or Madrid.

CHEDDAR, England, March 18— Until several weeks ago, Adrian Targett, a high school history teacher, didn’t appear to have much in common with Cheddar Man, a 9,000-year-old pile of bones at the Natural History Museum in London.