Scientists at Copenhagen University in Denmark have managed to extract a complete human genome from a sort of “chewing gum” dating back to 5,700 years. It enabled them not only to find clues about their dietary habits, but also to recreate their user’s image.
The study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that the ancient “chewing gum” was used by a woman. The researchers have also concluded that the woman was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at that time.
The “chewing gum” is from birch pitch that archaeological excavations at Syltholm on the island of Lolland, Denmark got. It is a black-brown substance that could be produced by heating the bark of the birch tree and letting it cooled down. It is believed that people would chew it to make it more malleable.
Researchers have different theories about the use of this “chewing gum” including its use as glue to make tools, to help in toothaches, to suppress hunger, or just for no specific purpose like today.
The researchers claim that they have been able to find that the woman who chewed the birch pitch probably had dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes. They have named her Lola and also created an artistic reconstruction of her image.
Researchers Identify DNA for Women Diet
“It’s amazing to have retrieved a complete ancient human genome. It is from anything other than bone,” lead researcher and Associate Professor said. He is from University of Copenhagen, Hannes Schroeder. “What’s more, we also retrieved DNA from oral microbes. Also, several important human pathogens, which makes this a very valuable source. It is an ancient DNA, especially for the time where we have no human remains.”
The researchers also identified traces of plant and animal DNA in the pitch. Specifically hazelnuts and duck — which may have been part of the woman’s diet. They have also managed to extract many different bacterial species that are characteristic of the oral microbiome.
“Our ancestors lived in a different environment and had a different lifestyle and diet. It’s, therefore, interesting to find how this is reflects in their microbiome,” Schroeder say.
The researchers say that the Epstein-Barr virus is from DNA. This induces mononucleosis viral or glandular fever. Schroeder said the old “chewing gum” was showing great research promise. Our ancestral microbiome composition and the origin of significant human pathogens.
“It can help us understand how pathogens have evolved. Also, spread over time, and what makes them particularly virulent in a given environment. At the same time, it may help predict how a pathogen will behave in the future. Also, how it might be contained or eradicated,” Schroeder added.