Neanderthals Were Vegetarians and Used Plants as Medicine

Neanderthals

Researchers discovered that Neanderthals had a vegetarian diet and they used plant-based medicine

A new research performed by Australian scientists revealed more about the lives of Neanderthals. The study includes information on the Neanderthal diets and what they used as medicine when they were ill.

The researchers performed an advanced study of the Neanderthal teeth and made interesting discoveries. The teeth revealed that Neanderthals had complex vegetarian diets. Also, some of them used medicines which contained plants for the treatment of different illnesses.

Laura Weyrich, scientist at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA, said that we should no longer think of Neanderthals as mere cave men that had only a few links with the human population of today. After analyzing Neanderthal dental plaques, they discovered that they followed a modern and pretty varied vegetarian diet.

This changes our general perception of Neanderthals as beastly and unsophisticated. In fact, they might have been very intelligent, communicative, and up to date to everything that was happening around them.

Weyrich revealed some information from their study. She said that some families of Neanderthal, such as El Sidron found in today’s modern Spain, had a diet that was made up mostly of plants and vegetables that the Neanderthals could find in the forest.

Also, the dental plaque analysis of the Neanderthals from El Sidron suggested that they also ate mushrooms, moss, grass, and pine nuts. She suggests that this was actually the typical Paleolithic diet and the standard in the El Sidron forest.

Besides their diets, the dental analysis also revealed information on the so-called medicine that Neanderthals used. They had specific plants that they used to treat certain illnesses. For instance, the researchers discovered that they used poplar bark as a treatment for gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea.

Poplar bark contains an active ingredient that can also be found in penicillin and aspirin. This active ingredient works as a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory solution and is effective in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.

Thus, this suggests that Neanderthals were smart enough that they tried to find solutions for their ailments and tried to self-medicate.

The evidence comes from DNA samples taken from the dental tartar of Neanderthals that populated central Europe around 40,000 years ago. The study suggests that they resembled humans more than we had previously thought and were quite intelligent and communicative creatures.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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