Neanderthals Had Knowledge of Plants’ Healing Qualities
An international team of researchers has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities. Until recently Neanderthals, who disappeared between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago, were thought to be predominantly meat-eaters. However, evidence of dietary breadth is growing as more sophisticated analyses are undertaken.
Researchers from Spain, the UK and Australia combined pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry with morphological analysis of plant microfossils to identify material trapped in dental calculus from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El SidrÃ³n. Their results, published in The Science of Nature, provide another twist to the story – the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.