Chewing gum was already used by humans 10,000 years ago according to a study published in Communications Biology. Researchers from Uppsala University, Stockholm University and the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo analyzed the DNA in ancient chewing gum used by human tribes that settled in Scandinavia more than 10,000 years ago.
These gums were mostly composed of lumps made of birch bark and are thought to have been used as glue in the production of tools or other types of tools. It was precisely these lumps, chewed and then spit out by humans at the time, that provided a unique opportunity to analyse the DNA of these humans, DNA that is currently the oldest ever sequenced DNA belonging to humans from this area.
The DNA analyzed comes from three individuals, two females and a male, and was taken from chewed birch bark found near Huseby-Klev, an ancient site of Mesolithic hunters and fishermen on Sweden’s west coast. The excavation at this site began in the early 90s but only today, with today’s techniques, was it possible to analyze this ancient DNA.
The results show that these people share a genetic affinity with other hunter-gatherers who settled in the area of present-day Sweden and with the first populations from the Mesolithic period until the Ice Age.
“The DNA of these ancient chewing gums has enormous potential not only to trace the origin and movement of peoples long ago, but also to provide insights into their social relationships, diseases and food,” says Persson, a researcher at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.