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26 August 2007
Student finds Neolithic chewing gum

A British archaeology student has discovered a 5,000-year-old piece of chewing gum. Sarah Pickin, 23, found the lump of birch bark tar complete with Neolithic tooth prints - while on a dig as a volunteer in Finland. Neolithic people used the material as an antiseptic to treat gum infections as well as a glue for repairing broken pots.
     Trevor Brown, her tutor at the University of Derby, said: "Birch bark tar contains phenols, which are antiseptic compounds. It is generally believed that Neolithic people found that by chewing this stuff if they had gum infections it helped to treat the condition." He said it was particularly significant because of the well defined tooth prints.
     Ms Pickin was one of five students from Britain on a volunteer programme at the Kierikki Centre, a museum and archaeological exhibition on the west coast of Finland. She also found part of an amber ring and a slate arrow head, all of which will be displayed at the centre once they have been analysed by a laboratory.
     Sini Annala, from the Kierikki Centre, said: "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 as some kind of chewing gum."

Sources: Times Online, The Guardian. BBC News (20 August 2007)

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