Sequencing genomes is a difficult process, especially when they’re really old. Shutterstock.

2. The Proof Is In The Genome

Because the gum was so well preserved in the mud, researchers were able to decode the girl’s entire genome. This test is the first time scientists have been able to glean so much information from such material: usually, scientists need bone or teeth in order to obtain enough genetic information to sequence a genome. Understanding the genome of an organism is crucial: a genome provides all of the genetic information encoded in DNA. It can give you hints on what illnesses the person may have fallen victim to as well as diet and habits.

This one is not the first encounter with ancient chewing gum: in 2018, Natalia Kashuba led a team of researchers in Sweden who analyzed three wads of gum that were estimated at being 10,000 years old. They explained that extracting DNA from the gum is a lot like extracting DNA from feces. The gum from the Lolland site was also processed by Kashuba’s team; they were able to not only sequence her genome but were also able to analyze the bacteria in her mouth, which suggested Lola (the name given to the girl who spit out the gum) had a diet similar to that of a hunter-gatherer society.

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