| By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor
The smallest clues often lead to big discoveries. In Jerusalem, archaeologists found coins that helped them date an ancient road built by Pontius Pilate. Earlier this month, researchers made a host of findings by sequencing the DNA and microbiome of the 5,700-year-old saliva of a young hunter-gatherer (reconstructed image above).
The breakthrough with this young hunter-gatherer was a small wad of tree pitch that she chewed on and spat out. From analyzing that, scientists identified that the hunter-gatherer was lactose intolerant, had severe periodontal disease, and had recently eaten hazelnuts and part of a mallard duck. This tech-fueled discovery raises the promise that we can find out about our ancestors from clumps of ancient “chewing gum,” Nat Geo’s Kristin Romey reports.
Some clues discovered by historians thread information together, such as the coins above an excavated roadway in Jerusalem. The dates of the coins “means the street was built before their appearance,” says Donald Ariel, a coin expert with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
A third example also was in plain sight. Very small graffiti uncovered in Pompeii, which had been destroyed by a volcano, had been little noticed for decades. The graffiti included commentary about food and services in the Roman town, critiquing wines or bathrooms, for example, on walls outside taverns and latrines in pre-eruption Pompeii. The analysis gave a much better sense of life in Pompeii.
Here’s to more discoveries of our past, through technological wizardry or simple deduction.
Do you get this newsletter daily? If not, sign up here or forward to a friend.