Scottish archaeology student discovers 5,000 year old chewing gum in Finland

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

An archaeology student from Scotland has discovered a 5,000 year old piece of chewing gum on a dig in Finland.

Sarah Pickin, a 23-year-old part-time barmaid studying archaeology with Derby University, discovered the gum during a dig in the north-west of the country. The gum is a lump of birch bark tar, and still has visible tooth marks. It has been sent away for analysis, and radio carbon dating is predicted to show the gum to be 5,000 years old.

Ms Pickin said of her discovery "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.

"Thankfully they agreed that it was birch-bark gum and it's now away to be carbon dated and have the teeth marks analysed before it goes on display."

It will be displayed in Finland’s Kierikki centre, which is devoted to finds from the area. Sarah Pickin also discovered a piece of an amber ring, a slate arrowhead and a hair needle. All the finds date to the Neolithic period.

It is believed the gum was chewed as an aid against gum disease, as it contains antiseptics.

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