Researchers extract complete human genome from ancient chewing gum

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have announced something very interesting. The scientists have been able to extract a complete human genome from birch pitch that was chewed like gum by an ancient human that lived 5,700 years ago. The team says that this is the first time that a complete human genome has been extracted from birch pitch.The discovery opens the door to using birch pitch as an untapped source for ancient human genome material. The leader of the research team, Hannes Schroeder, said that this is the first time that an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than bone.

Along with the human genetic material, the team also recovered oral microbes and several important human pathogens. The genome showed that the birch pitch was chewed by a female. She was genetically more closely related to the hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time.

The scientists say that the woman likely had dark hair, dark skin, and blue eyes. The chewed birch pitch was found during archeological excavations at Syltholm, east of Rødbyhavn, in southern Denmark. The team says that the site is unique because everything is sealed in mud, preserving organic material well.

The pitch also contained traces of duck and hazelnuts in it, hinting at the diet the individual ate. Several oral microbiota were extracted from the pitch that are characteristic of an oral microbiome. The team also found DNA that could be from the Epstein-Barr Virus known to cause infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever.