Oral Microbiome of Lola:
The story of a 5700-year-old Chewing Gum.
At an ancient tool-making site of Syltholm, a Danish island of Lolland, some archaeologists found a 5700-year-old piece of birch tar, imprinted with human teeth marks.
Previously found artefacts reveal the purpose of birch pitch or tar where it has been used as a glue-like substance to attach the stone blades to their handles. The birch tar is first processed by chewing and heating, to enhance its adhesive properties. However, the pitch found at Syltholm was strikingly different as it was overly chewed and soft, making it impossible to use it as glue. The scientists speculate that the birch tar functioned like an ancient chewing gum.
From this piece, they have been able to reconstruct the genetic profile of Lola, it’s former owner, by extracting her DNA and microbiome still present in the material. This was a remarkable achievement as it was the first successful human DNA extraction from non-human material.
By examining this old pitch they noticed countless microbes that lived inside her mouth. There was enough oral information captured in this piece of natural resin to tell us more about her behaviour and physical appearance. She is believed to have had blue eyes with dark hair and skin. Unfortunately they didn’t find out how old Lola was or what caused her death.
"So if a ‘chewing gum’ or even a natural resin is able to absorb DNA we can consider it as an alternative DNA test kit?"