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HomeUncategorizedPrehistoric Chompers: Decoding the Dental Clues of Ancient Swedish Chewing Gum

Prehistoric Chompers: Decoding the Dental Clues of Ancient Swedish Chewing Gum

In the remote forests of northern Sweden, a remarkable archaeological discovery has shed light on the lives of our Stone Age ancestors. Buried beneath the soil for millennia, fragments of ancient chewing gum have revealed extraordinary insights into the diet, oral health, and daily lives of the hunter-gatherers who once roamed this region. These remarkable artifacts, dating back over 9,700 years, offer a rare and intimate glimpse into the world of our prehistoric forebears.

The Discovery of Ancient Chewing Gum

Ancient Human DNA Found in 10,000-Year-Old Chewing Gum - The Atlantic

The wads of ancient chewing gum were first discovered 30 years ago at the Huseby Klev archaeological site, located north of the city of Gothenburg. These pieces of birch bark pitch, combined with saliva and bearing the distinct impressions of teeth, have provided researchers with a unique window into the past. According to Anders Gotherstrom, a co-author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, these ancient “chewing gums” were most likely used by the hunter-gatherers as a form of adhesive, helping to assemble tools and weapons.

Uncovering the Diet and Oral Health of Stone Age Swedes
Prehistoric "chewing gum" sheds light on Stone Age diet

The analysis of these chewing gum samples has yielded remarkable insights into the diet and oral health of the individuals who once chewed them. By extracting DNA from the gum, researchers were able to determine that the teenagers’ Stone Age diet included a variety of foods, such as deer, trout, hazelnuts, and even traces of apple, duck, and fox.

In one particularly intriguing discovery, the researchers found evidence of a severe case of periodontitis, a serious gum infection, in a piece of chewing gum that had been chewed by a teenage girl. This finding suggests that these ancient Swedes faced significant dental challenges, with the potential for tooth loss and ongoing pain.

The Significance of Ancient Chewing Gum

DNA from 10,000-year-old "chewing gum" sheds light on teens' Stone Age menu and oral health: "It must have hurt" - CBS News

The significance of these ancient chewing gum samples extends far beyond their role as a source of dietary and health information. According to Gotherstrom, the gum offers a unique opportunity to connect the artifacts, DNA, and the individual humans who once inhabited this region. “You have the imprint from the teenager’s mouth who chewed it thousands of years ago,” he explains. “If you want to put some kind of a philosophical layer into it, for us it connects artifacts, the DNA and humans.”

Revealing Gender Dynamics in the Stone Age


Furthermore, the researchers found that both male and female adolescents were engaging in the act of chewing this ancient gum, suggesting a level of gender parity in at least some aspects of their daily lives. This insight into the social dynamics of the Stone Age provides a fascinating counterpoint to the often-assumed patriarchal structures of prehistoric societies.

The discovery of these ancient chewing gum samples has transformed our understanding of the lives of Stone Age Swedes. From their dietary preferences to their oral health challenges, these remarkable artifacts have provided researchers with a rare and intimate glimpse into the world of our prehistoric ancestors. As we continue to unravel the secrets hidden within these ancient remains, we are granted a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of human history and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.




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