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December 18, 2019 01:25 am

DNA From 'Chewing Gum' Provides Clues To Life 5,700 Years Ago

New submitter RG-man writes: DNA obtained from birch pitch used as a type of ancient chewing gum has revealed significant insights into the life of a young girl who lived 5,700 years ago. CNN reports: "...[Lola] chewed on birch pitch, a material that functioned a bit like an ancient chewing gum. A study of that birch pitch has uncovered the girl's entire genome and oral microbiome, marking the first time human genetic material has successfully been extracted from something besides human bones. The study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. By extracting DNA from the birch pitch, the researchers learned that it had been chewed by a female genetically closely related to hunter-gatherers from the European mainland, rather than those in central Scandinavia. Specific genes told them about her hair, skin and eye color, similar to that of other European hunter-gatherers. 'What is more, we also retrieved DNA from oral microbes and several important human pathogens, which makes this a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains,' said Hannes Schroeder, study author and associate professor from the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Plant and animal DNA trapped in the pitch also revealed that she had eaten hazelnuts and duck, likely staples of her diet."

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