Danish Archaeologists Reconstruct Ancient Ancestor from Chewing Gum

Here’s another interesting bit of archaeology, courtesy of yesterday’s I. According to an article by Nina Massey, ‘Stone Age gum puts face to ancestor’, Danish archaeologist have been able to reconstruct the probable appearance of a woman from prehistory from the DNA she left in a piece of tree gum. The article runs

The entire genetic code of a 5.700 year-old human has been extracted from a piece of ancient “chewing gum”.

Danish scientists examined an ancient piece of chewed birch pitch and managed to obtain the entire ancient human genome from it.

Researchers from Copenhagen University said it is the first time the human genome has been obtained from anything other than bones.

Birch pitch, which has been used as a glue, is created by heating birch bark. Small lumps of this material have been found at archaeological sites and have often included tooth imprints, suggesting it was chewed.

The retrieved genome revealed it was chewed by a female and was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe, than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time.

She also probably had dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes, the study, published in Nature Communications, said. Researchers found traces of hazelnut and duck DNA in the sample, indicating they may have made up part of her diet.

The chewed birch pitch was found during archaeological excavations at Syltholm in southern Denmark.

The article also carried a picture of what the woman may have looked like, and a photograph of the lump of pitch.

The dating puts the woman in the Neolithic. Her colouring is the same as that reconstructed for ‘Cheddar Man’ from 9,000 years ago. He also had dark skin and hair and blue eyes. This shows just how recently the modern European complexion – White or pale skin, and hair colour that ranges from black through brown, to straw and platinum blonde – evolved.

Tags: , , , , , ,

One Response to “Danish Archaeologists Reconstruct Ancient Ancestor from Chewing Gum”

  1. trev Says:

    Yes, interesting that the dark skin/blue eyes combination seems to be a recurring theme. I’m not sure what that means but since those times I think I’m right in saying that temperatures have risen, yet ‘our’ skin has got paler, surely it should be the other way around?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: