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 Sidrón. 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.