New Research Suggests Spanish Neanderthals Were Plant-Based
Research focused on the analysis of the dental tartar of three Neanderthals–two from Spain and one from Belgium–suggests that the diet of the former was plant-based. The Guardian writes that the international researchers “analysed ancient DNA – from microbes and food debris – preserved in the dental tartar, or calculus” from 42,000 to 50,000 years ago, with additional analysis of the “microbial communities that had lived in the Neanderthals’ mouths.”
While Keith Dobney, a co-author of the research, notes that due to the small sample size there is no “clear, definitive proof that Neanderthals in Spain were vegetarian,” the findings reveal that while the diet of the individual studied from Belgium shows “traces of woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep,” by contrast, the “dietary profile in El Sidrón Neanderthals was markedly different,” in that it “contained no sequences matching large herbivores or suggesting high meat consumption.” The article adds:
“Neanderthals from El Sidrón showed no evidence of meat eating – instead they appear to have survived on a mixture of forest moss, pine nuts and a mushroom known as split gill.”
The research also suggests that there is potential “evidence of more sophisticated behaviour in terms of knowledge of medicinal plants,” as one of the Spanish Neanderthals may have been using poplar as a natural painkiller for a toothache. Dobney adds that as a result of findings like this, “the idea that Neanderthals were a bit simple and just dragging their knuckles around is one that has gone a long time ago, certainly in the anthropological world.”
To read the full study published in Nature, visit this link.
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