The life and appearance of a hunter-gatherer in Denmark about 6000 years ago

At the dawn of the Neolithic era, a young woman discarded a lump of ancient chewing gum made from birch tar into a shallow, brackish lagoon that drew fishers to the coast of southern Denmark.

Nearly 6,000 years later, researchers excavating the site spotted the gum amid pieces of wood and wild animal bone and from it have reassembled her complete DNA and so painted the broadest strokes of her portrait.

” The strands of DNA preserved in the gum point to a hunter-gatherer from continental Europe who had dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes. She lived near the lagoon, itself protected from the open sea by shifting sand barriers, about 5,600 years ago, according to carbon dating of the birch tar.

Alongside her DNA, the researchers found genetic material from duck and hazelnuts – presumed remnants of a recent meal – and at least 40 types of microbes.

Anders Götherström said the latest work was exciting. “As for human DNA, these mastics may present an alternative source for DNA from where there are limited amounts of preserved bones. But even more exciting is the ancient microbial DNA,” he said. “The mouth is an exposed area of the body. It is possible that this type of material will outcompete bones when looking for DNA from ancient pathogens.”

Thanks, Honeyman

Neolithic tomb complex discovered – while landscaping

Archaeologists on Orkney are investigating what is thought to be a 5,000-year-old tomb complex.

A local man stumbled on the site while using a mechanical digger for landscaping.

It appears to contain a central passageway and multiple chambers excavated from rock…

“Potentially these skeletons could tell us so much about Neolithic people,” said Orkney Islands Council archaeologist Julie Gibson. “Not only in relation to their deaths, but their lives.”

One end of the tomb was accidentally removed as it was discovered and as a result, the burial site has now been flooded. Archaeologists are in a race against time to recover its contents before they are damaged or destroyed.

“There might also be other material, pottery or organics such as woven grass, buried in there – which cannot last under the circumstances,” said Ms Gibson.

“Call before you dig” only works for gas lines and phone cables.

The team are posting daily video updates from the excavations which are expected to take 10 days.