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Genetic Linkage

Chewing Gum Reveals Stone Age Diet and Disease

Did Barney Rubble and Fred Flinstone chew gum?


We can learn about life, past and present, anywhere we find DNA and determine its sequence. DNA Science has described intriguing sources of environmental DNA, aka eDNA: DNA in Strange Places: Hippo Poop, Zoo Air, and Cave Dirt and A Glimpse of the Ocean's Twilight Zone Through Environmental DNA.  


Human remains also harbor bits of DNA that can reveal how people lived long ago.


A recent report in PLOS ONE analyzes DNA from an adenovirus and a herpes virus discovered in preserved feces – coprolites – from 5,500 to 7,000 years ago at an archaeological site in Japan. The findings suggest that those people might have suffered from similar infections to humans today.


A second recent report uncovers clues in preserved chewing gum, reminding me of Flintstones gummy vitamins. (See A Brief History of Flintstones Vitamins). 


About 9,700 years ago, a group of teens were hunting, gathering, and fishing along the western coast of Scandinavia, north of what is today Göteborg. They chewed a concoction of hardened birch tar, the preserved lumps bearing bitemarks that suggest the stuff was used as a chewing gum of sorts, perhaps also as an adhesive in construction. An international research team published their findings on the Mesolithic gum in Scientific Reports.


To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared. 

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