The Atlantic

What Chewed-Up Gum Reveals About Life in the Stone Age

Chewed tar is an unexpectedly great source of ancient DNA.
Source: Natalija Kashuba

No one today quite understands how they did it, but people in the Stone Age could turn ribbons of birch bark into sticky, black tar. They used this tar to make tools, fixing arrowheads onto arrows and blades onto axes. And they chewed it, as evidenced by teeth marks in some lumps.

These unassuming lumps of chewed birch-bark tar turn out to be an extraordinary source of ancient DNA. This month, two separate research groups posted preprints describing DNA from the tar in Stone Age Scandinavia. The two papers have not

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