27 October 2021 The Future is the Product of the Past

5,700-Year-old Ancient “Chewing Gum” Gives Information About People and Bacteria of the Past

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have successfully extracted the complete human genome from “chewing gum” thousands of years ago. According to the researchers, it is a new untapped source of ancient DNA.

A 5,700-year-old lump of pitch tar provided archaeologists with intriguing details about the intimate details of a Danish Stone Age woman – and “chewing gum” sheds new light on the evolution of our species.

Paleolithic chewing gum found on an island known for its mud was perfectly preserved, and scientists were able to determine the color of skin, hair and eyes, pathogen profile, dental condition, diet, and more from the DNA inside it.

On the field, scientists were able to collect her entire genome as well as the genomes of other species that inhabited her mouth. She was lactose intolerant, seemed to prefer wild food to basic grain products, and was a carrier of the viral infection that many of us have today.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,’’ says Associate Professor Hannes Schroeder from the Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen, who led the research.

“What is more, we also retrieved DNA from oral microbes and several important human pathogens, which makes this a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains,” he adds.

Sealed in mud

This individual, named “Lola” after the island where the gum was found, had dark skin, suggesting that northern Europeans’ adaptive lighter skin evolved much later. She could chew gum made of birch bark for many reasons.

_Lolland. Photo- Theis Jensen.
The birch pitch found at Syltholm on Lolland. Photo: Theis Jensen.

The earliest known use of birch pitch dates back to the Palaeolithic. As the primary Stone Age adhesive, the resin of various trees becomes more pliable the more it is heated, and chewing may have been a way of keeping it pliable as it becomes cooler when heated. There’s also the possibility that its antiseptic properties prompted her to chew it to ease toothache, or she might just enjoy the monotonous biting that makes many of us chew gum today.

The birch pitch was discovered during an archaeological excavation in Syltholm, east of Rødbyhavn in southern Denmark.

“Syltholm is completely unique. Almost everything is sealed in mud, which means that the preservation of organic remains is absolutely phenomenal,” says Theis Jensen, Postdoc at the Globe Institute, who worked on the study for his PhD and also participated in the excavations at Syltholm.

“It is the biggest Stone Age site in Denmark and the archaeological finds suggest that the people who occupied the site were heavily exploiting wild resources well into the Neolithic, which is the period when farming and domesticated animals were first introduced into southern Scandinavia,” he adds.

Lola lived at a time when hunter-gatherers and farmers lived in the same areas – something that wasn’t always considered likely. Her penchant for mallard duck and hazelnut while other Paleo-Danes ate their crops further strengthens this theory, as does her inability to tolerate lactose, commonly seen in northern Europeans after animal domestication.

The study was supported by the Villum Foundation and the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program through the Marie Curie Actions.

Cover Photo: Artistic reconstruction of the woman who chewed the birch pitch. She has been named Lola. Illustration by Tom Björklund.

Banner
Related Post

The 3,000-Year-Old Ancient City is Under Danger

8 February 2021

8 February 2021

For the port planned to be built in Izmir’s Aliağa district, a part of the 3,000-year-old ancient city is in...

New Research Shows Angkor Wat’s Incredible Population Density

11 May 2021

11 May 2021

Angkor Wat was the grand capital of ancient Cambodia. The population of Angkor Wat, one of the most magnificent cities...

A 1,600-year-old church has been discovered in Turkey’s ancient city of Priene

19 October 2021

19 October 2021

A 1,600-year-old historical church was unearthed during the excavations in the Ancient City of Priene, located in the western province...

Philippines Cagayan Cave Art 3500 Years Old

29 June 2021

29 June 2021

A depiction depicting a human-like figure on a cave wall in Penablanca town, Cagayan province, is Southeast Asia’s first directly...

Great Wall Castle Remains Found in China’s Shaanxi

8 June 2021

8 June 2021

The remains of a Great Wall castle dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) were discovered in northwest China’s Shaanxi...

Roman Bath Complex Found under Spain’s Caños de Meca beach

22 May 2021

22 May 2021

A well-preserved ancient Roman bath complex emerged from the sand of a beach in the Andalusian region of southwestern Spain....

Maltaş Temple Revealed

10 August 2021

10 August 2021

Phrygian Valley, 10 meters high monument with Phrygian scriptures inscriptions on it discovered. The unearthed Maltaş monument is actually the...

The ruins found in Nara could be the Imperial House of Female Emperor Koken

1 July 2021

1 July 2021

Archaeologists unearthed one of the largest building remains ever found at the former site of the Heijokyu palace in the...

7 Gold Pendants Found Buried by Ancient Scandinavian Elites as a Sacrifice to the Gods

13 May 2021

13 May 2021

7 gold necklaces were found in a field near the Norwegian municipality of Østfold County Rade. Researchers believe that these...

A Roman sarcophagus containing two skeletons was found in Bath, England

29 June 2021

29 June 2021

Stone walls, a Roman sarcophagus, and a cremation burial have been unearthed in a renovation project at the Bathwick Roman...

Human Relief Found at Million Stone Excavation Site in İstanbul

18 July 2021

18 July 2021

The Milion Stone (also known as the Million Stone) from the Eastern Roman period is one of important the historical...

İnteresting Relief on the Roman Millstone

20 February 2021

20 February 2021

During the Cambridgeshire A14 road improvement work, workers found an interesting millstone. A large penis was engraved in the Roman-era...

The historic Egyptian Palace is being demolished, it may hold a surprise underneath

27 August 2021

27 August 2021

The cause for the evacuation and demolition of the ancient Tawfiq Pasha Andraos Palace, located in the precincts of the...

Over 1,600-yr-old tomb of embracing lovers found in north China

16 August 2021

16 August 2021

Archaeologists recently published a study of the tomb of cuddling lovers, dating to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), more than...

Who really fought in the Battle of Himera? Researchers found the answer to the question

14 May 2021

14 May 2021

According to the Ancient Greek Historians, victory over the Carthaginians in the Battle of Himera was won by the alliance...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *