History is a fascinating subject as we try to understand the lives of our ancestors. While modern history is rich in material to study, ancient history leaves very little clues. While we can use bones to map DNA from the past, where bones are missing we know very little. Recently a piece of chewing gum was discovered from the Stone Age allowing scientists to map a full human genome. The results are incredible.
This piece of chewing gum marks the first time an entire ancient human genome was extracted from anything other than bone. The data received from the gum was incredibly rich, it showed that the ‘chewer’ was a female with dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes.
The chewing gum also showed the strain of a virus suggesting the lady had glandular fever at the time, helping to understand the history of the disease. If scientists can see how a virus behaved many years ago and compare it to the current strain today, they can better understand how a virus mutates. This is powerful in understanding how to address modern disease.
The chewing gum itself is made from a material called birch pitch. It is a brown substance that is made by heating birch tree bark. It was used in prehistoric times a glue. It is possible that it was being chewed to make it more malleable so that it could be used again as a glue substance. Other scientists suggest the substance has some anti-inflammatory properties and could have been used to relieve a toothache or other ailment. Of course, as in modern-day, the person could have just been chewing the substance for fun.
This piece of gum is only the beginning of a new wave of understanding. While bones have been extremely useful in helping to understand history, they can only provide clues to certain information. If other materials can be used then it can provide a whole new perspective on the past allowing us to understand the evolution of man to a much more sophisticated level.
While we can’t condone spitting out your chewing gum today, clearly the traces we leave behind can have some benefit for the people of the future. What are your thoughts on this new discovery? Leave a comment below on what you think about the mystery lady who chewed gum in the Stone Age!