Researchers have discovered that the unpleasant habit of spitting out chewing gum onto the floor dates back at least 5,000 years. Sarah Pickin, a student from the University of Derby in the UK discovered tooth marks in an ancient piece of tar from an archaeology dig in Finland (BBC). “I had heard of ancient chewing gum being found before on previous European digs so when I found it in the trench, it was the first thing that crossed my mind. However, it looks just like a dirty piece of modern chewing gum with no smell or taste and I was also worried it could have been a bit of fossilised poo, so I asked a few of the other students to make sure,” Pickin told The Scotsman, raising the worrying point that she must have tasted it.
“It is generally believed that Neolithic People found that by chewing this stuff if they had gum infections it helped to treat the condition. It’s particularly significant because well defined tooth imprints were found on the gum which Sarah discovered,” said Trevor Brown, the student’s tutor. Those wishing to make their own chewing gum can follow this helpful recipe from Sini Annala, an employee of the Kierikki Centre where the discovery was made, “The actual material is some kind of tar that was made by heating birch bark. After the tar was made, it was boiled, and when it cooled, it became solid. When it was heated again, it became softer, and it was used at least sometimes as some kind of chewing gum.” (Press release.)
This story has generated some interest in the UK – a country where discarded gum is such a problem one city is now threatening £75 spot fines to offenders (Lancashire Evening Post). Freesheet Metro notes that the gum will now be displayed in a museum, showing once again that today’s rubbish is tomorrow’s archaeology.