Archaeologists who discovered an ancient substance, much like chewing gum, have used it to take a look into the life, diet, and appearance of a young Stone Age girl. This bird pith, an ancient form of gum used as a type of glue in the Paleolithic era, was found at a Denmark archaeological site.
The Stone Age girl lived in Lolland approximately 5,700 years ago. Thanks to traces of her microbiome and random DNA, scientists have discovered much about the girl, including what she looked like and her last meal (thought to be hazelnuts and duck). She was also found to have suffered from an illness such as glandular fever, lactose intolerant, and suffering from tooth decay.
It’s almost unbelievable what we can tell from a small wad of gum over 5,000 years ago. This is just one instance of how the mouth from the deceases can paint a picture of what life was like during that time. A recent British Museum exhibition called Ancient Lives, New Discoveries illustrated just how severe tooth decay was in a time long before toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste. The exhibition is focused on eight people who lived in the Sudan and Egypt over a time period of several centuries, who had wither been mummified or embalmed. A CT scan of the bodies provided valuable information to scientists.
The curators at The British Museum were able to determine conditions the people were suffering from. The most common condition found was dental disease. Four of the bodies had dental infections and would have been in severe pain. It’s even possible that at least one of them may have died as a result of infection from a tooth entering the bloodstream.
Why was decay such a problem? Humans likely ate a lot of sugar at that time, and their molar teeth appear to have been worn down by a fibrous or gritty diet.