New Research Reveals Neanderthals' Self-Medication Habits [VIDEO]
Two Neanderthals were found at a site in Spain and another two from Belgium. After examining their dental plaque, scientists said it indicated they may have turned to plants to relieve pain. The study was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
Laura Weyrich, lead study author from the University of Adelaide, said that they had tied down years of previous research from many fields. They used samples that range from 42,000 to 50,000 years old, the oldest dental plaque to be analyzed genetically. Dental plaque is a biofilm of bacteria that hardens and it can preserve bacteria for thousands of years.
Genome analysis found DNA, food and even work items. This help revealed more about the microorganisms present in modern humans that are shared with Neanderthals, which explains interbreeding.
Humans and Neanderthals swapped oral microorganisms through saliva. It's possible kissing and food sharing would have been involved.
Neanderthals in Spain were found in El Disron Cave. One young Neanderthal used medicinal plants to treat a dental abscess. They had completely different diets from the Neanderthals in Belgium. They had a vegetarian lifestyle, ate foods like mushrooms, moss, pine nuts and no meat.
The CNN reported that Alan Cooper, study co-author and professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia said that the Neanderthals from Spain lived in a dense forest with no animals. The researchers believe they were not vegetarians by choice but because those were the available products of their environment.
According to The Raw Story, the young Neanderthal had a tooth abscess, bad diarrhea and was self-medicating by eating poplar, which contains an active ingredient of aspirin. They also found the presence of a natural form of antibiotic penicillin, which was not present in other specimens. It was surprising since it was more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin.
Unlike the Neanderthals from Spain, the ones from Belgium were found from Spy Cave and consumed woolly rhinoceros, wild sheep and mushrooms. It showed the different lifestyles that may have been due to their environment.