Scientists recently discovered that a simple combination of white wine and lemon juice keeps pastry dough snowy white, according to a study appearing last month in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. That’s good news this Christmas for commercial producers of cookies and pastries, who have to turn to artificial food additives to keep white dough from browning. Polyphenol oxidase, the same enzyme that causes bananas and apples to turn brown, also discolors dough and can make holiday sugar cookies less-than-appealing. —J.B.
Anthropologists discovered what they believe are 8,000-year-old samples of gum containing the DNA of a group of Scandinavian reindeer hunters who once lived in present day Sweden and Norway, according to a study published this month on the bioRxiv preprint server.
The researchers uncovered 100 samples of coal black gum pieces the size of a thumbprint embedded with distinct human toothmarks in an archaeological site in western Sweden. Chemical analysis revealed the sticky chunks were pieces of birch bark pitch, an early adhesive made from plant resin. The scientists believe the hunters chewed the pitch to make glue for weapons and tools, Science Magazine reported.
The researchers analyzed three pieces of the gum and found that all three contained human DNA from two females and a male. The size and wear of the toothmarks showed the samples likely came from people between the ages of 5 and 18 years, although the scientists found adult toothmarks in other samples of the pitch, suggesting that toolmaking may have incorporated both sexes and children and adults.
In this excavation, the researchers did not find the wads of pitch embedded in actual tools, so they cannot say the chewers were definitely toolmakers, Lisa Matisoo-Smith, a molecular anthropologist in New Zealand noted. “They may have been children just chewing gum,” she told the magazine. “Either way, it’s pretty cool.” —J.B.