Listen to Today's Edition
Ancient teenagers likely liked chewing gum, too.
And now, the remnants of these chews are helping scientists to unveil fascinating details about Stone Age teenagers’ diets and oral health in Sweden, Agence France-Presse reported.
The gum – made from birch bark pitch – was first discovered at Sweden’s Huseby Klev archaeological site near Gothenburg three decades ago.
Dating back 9,700 years, previous research has suggested that the resin was likely used as glue to assemble tools and weapons – although scholars also believe it was chewed because ancient people liked it or thought it had some medicinal properties.
“There were several chewing gum (samples) and both males and females chewed them,” explained study co-author Anders Götherström. “Most of them seem to have been chewed by teenagers.”
While the exact purpose of the chews remains a mystery, Götherström and his team analyzed the DNA within the gums to uncover dietary habits and health conditions of the individuals who chewed the ancient “gum.”
Their findings showed a detailed picture of Stone Age food consumption: The diet mainly consisted of deer, trout and hazelnuts, but also had traces of apple and fox.
But researchers also uncovered evidence of periodontitis, a severe gum infection, in one teenager’s chewed gum. This finding suggests ancient dental health issues and offers a poignant connection to the individual’s experience thousands of years ago, AFP wrote.
“You have the imprint from the teenager’s mouth who chewed it thousands of years ago,” said Götherström. “If you want to put some kind of a philosophical layer into it, for us it connects artifacts, the DNA and humans.”