Monday, August 20, 2007

Student finds Neolithic chewing gum

A Scottish archaeology student has discovered a 5,000-year-old piece of chewing gum while on a dig in Europe.

Sarah Pickin, 23, spotted the ancient piece of "confectionery" during a dig in north-west Finland, but had to check with colleagues whether her hunch was correct or if it was in fact a fossilised piece of animal dung.

Sarah Pickin holding the chewing gum she found

The part-time barmaid was correct and the lump of birch-bark tar, complete with visible tooth marks, has now been sent for analysis where it is expected to be carbon dated at around 3000BC.

Chewing gum is often thought of as a modern habit invented by William Wrigley Jr and imported to Europe from America last century.

However, gum has a long history stretching back at least 9,000 years, with tar-like materials commonly chewed throughout much of northern Europe from at least the early Mesolithic period (10,000-6500BC).

Ms Pickin's discovery is from the Neolithic period (4000-2500BC) when people used the unflavoured birch bark as an antiseptic to treat gum infections or as glue for repairing broken pots and fixing arrowheads to shafts.

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