Tags: denmark | stone age | research | dna

Stone Age Chewing Gum Reveals Life of Denmark Girl

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By    |   Thursday, 19 December 2019 04:43 PM

A wad of Stone Age chewing gum has given researchers an intriguing look into the life of a girl who lived in Denmark 5,700 years ago, had blue eyes, dark skin, dark hair — and a last meal that included hazelnuts and duck.

In a study published this week in Nature Communications, the researchers outlined how they figured out the genome and microbiome of a girl they dubbed Lola from a hunk of birch pitch, a material that functioned a little like chewing gum.

The researchers said it is the first time human genetic material has successfully been extracted from something besides human bones, CNN reported.

The brownish-black birch pitch chunk was found by archeologists from the Museum Lolland-Falster at the Syltholm site on Lolland, the fourth largest island of Denmark. 

By extracting DNA from the birch pitch, the researchers learned 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.

Meanwhile, the testing of plant and animal DNA trapped in the pitch also revealed she had eaten hazelnuts and duck, likely diet staples — and she was lactose-intolerant, which aligns with the idea that adults evolved the tolerance after dairy farming spread.

The researchers were also able to detect traces of DNA that revealed pathogens, including potential Epstein-Barr virus, one of the most common human viruses — and found the signature for pneumonia. Some bacteria in the pitch indicated signs of gum disease too, which might be why the girl was chewing it, the researchers determined.

"It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone," Hannes Schroeder, study author and associate professor from the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen, told CNN.

"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."

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A wad of Stone Age chewing gum has given researchers an intriguing look into the life of a girl who lived in Denmark 5,700 years ago, had blue eyes, dark skin, dark hair — and a last meal that included hazelnuts and duck.
denmark, stone age, research, dna
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2019-43-19
Thursday, 19 December 2019 04:43 PM
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