Chewing Gum Helps Scientists Discover DNA Of 5,700-Year-Old Ancient Woman
he perks of chewing gum, right? Not only does it help you ease hunger pains and clean your teeth, it also acts as a boredom buster. Much like today’s generation, people in the Stone Age were pretty comfortable leaving their chewed chewing gum wherever they pleased. Although the act of abandoning your chewing gum in inappropriate places is considered ill-manners today, scientists are glad that our ancient relatives did just that. Archaeologists who’re busy excavating ancient settlements are stumbling across these chewed remains, which is helping them learn more about the people who once chewed them.
Late last year, in Southern Denmark, archaeologists discovered a 5,700 years old chewing gum and, according to an analysis published in Nature Communication, it belonged to a dark-skinned, dark-haired and blue-eyed female. The ancient chewing gum’s DNA could help scientists understand where it came from, the kinds of foods people ate at that time and the kinds of diseases that were common at that time. Now, the gum isn’t the kind of gum we know today because that 5,700-year-old chewing gum is actually a birch pitch, a byproduct you get after heating up tree bark. While it is unclear why people chewed birch pitch, experts believe that due to its natural antiseptic properties, people may have chewed it to relieve toothaches or other illnesses.
With the help of carbon dating, experts discovered that the gum was approximately 5,700 years old, which meant that people, at that time, had stopped hunting and started farming and domesticating animals. However, the DNA from the birch pitch revealed that the blue-eyed woman was related to hunter-gatherers from west Europe. Although the woman lived in a more developed era, the pitch’s DNA showed no signs of the said development, which only meant that while others at that time were farming and domesticating animals, this woman belonged to a settlement who were still hunters and gatherers.
The chewing gum’s DNA revealed that people back then dealt with pneumonia, gum infections, and herpes. While the chewing gum won’t help scientists map how humans migrated across the world or help them discover when they started cultivation, it will help them understand how the chewer lived and what we still have in common.
Hannes Schroeder, lead researcher and evolutionary genomicist from the University of Copenhagen stated that the chewing gum will help scientists understand how pathogens evolved and how they spread across the world. Schroeder concluded that the gum will help predict the behavior of pathogens in the future and if it can be contained or eradicated.
Do you think this chewing gum can help us understand our past better? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends!