Pacific Science Center

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PacSci-Doku: “Ancient Chewing Gum”

By Dennis Schatz – Senior Advisor

Do you Sudoku? It’s one of the hottest number games around! Well, here’s a twist we think you’ll love. We call it PacSci-Doku. Can you guess why? Here’s how it works. Instead of filling in the blanks with numbers, we use letters. Hidden in one of the columns or rows is the answer to a science question. You’ll find information about the answer on the answer tab below.

The question in this edition is:

What was likely used as the first chewing gum by our ancient ancestors?

To find the answer, complete this PacSci-Doku using the following nine letters:

I  a  k  B  b  r  R  C  H

PacSci-Doku: Ancient Chewing Gum

Puzzle Difficulty: Hard

The Answer

PacSci-Doku: Ancient Chewing Gum AnswerThe question in this edition is:

What was likely used as the first chewing gum by our ancient ancestors?

The answer: Birch Bark

Ancient humans living thousands of years ago heated birch bark to produce a tar-like substance, called birch tar. This sticky substance was used to attach stone axes to handles and arrowheads to arrows. When the tar solidified as it cooled, these ancient ancestors would chew on it, like today’s chewing gum, to make it soft again. It may have also had medicinal value because of the antiseptic oils in the bark.

A wad of birch tar found in southern Denmark contained the DNA of its chewer, who lived 5,700 years ago. Analysis of the DNA reviewed much about the person – she was a female, likely to have blue eyes and to be lactose intolerant. The researches were also able to tell she was eating duck and hazelnuts before chewing on the tar. Learn more about what scientists have discovered about this ancient human they named Lola.

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