Ancient Glue Traces Reveal 10, 000-year-old Scandinavian DNA

Birch bark pitch constituted masticated lumps make for a revealing study into human genetics and tools development. A research conducted by Stockholm University finds traces of 10, 000-year-old Scandinavian DNA in ancient chewing gum.

As a part of a new finding in archaeogenetic studies, the chewing gum unraveled the oldest DNA unearthed in the region. The DNA was taken from three sets of chewing gums, two females and one male. The establish an organic connection between material- tools and genetics. The masticates were made out of birch bark tar and used as glue in tool production and other types of technology during the Stone Age.

Chewing Gums have been known to reveal human history, being used extensively to unveil the past in archeological studies. “When Per Persson and Mikael Maininen proposed to look for hunter-gatherer DNA in these chewing gums from Huseby Klev we were hesitant but really impressed that archaeologists took care during the excavations and preserved such fragile material,” says Natalija Kashuba, who was affiliated to The Museum of Cultural History in Oslo when she performed the experiments in cooperation with Stockholm University.

“It took some work before the results overwhelmed us, as we understood that we stumbled into this almost ‘forensic research’, sequencing DNA from these mastic lumps, which were spat out at the site some 10,000 years ago!” says Natalija Kashuba. Today Natalija is a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University.