What is ancient chewing gum and where does it come from?
During an excavation on Lolland, archaeologists have found a 5,700-year-old type of ancient chewing gum made from birch pitch. When heated, birch pitch produces a black-brown gooey substance, which is well known as an all-purpose glue in prehistoric times. However, archaeologists have found teeth marks on the birch pitch, which suggests that they were chewed. Some archaeologists believe that birch pitch has been used to relieve toothaches and as a mild form of antiseptic. Others believe that birch pith may have been used as a prehistoric kind of toothbrush or chewing gum.
What’s special about ancient chewing gum?
For the first time in history, researchers have been able to extract an entire ancient human genome from something other than bones. The DNA found on the ancient chewing gum provides insight into the type of diet our ancestors had. In addition, the ancient chewing gum was able to preserve various types of bacterial species found in our ancestors. These DNA results are pertinent in understanding how pathogens have evolved and spread over time, which in turn can help us predict how pathogens will behave in the future.
A specialist’s perspective on ancient chewing gum.
Archaeologist Hannes Schroeder says, “Our ancestors lived in different environment and had different lifestyle and diet, and it is therefore interesting to find out how this is reflected in their microbiome.”