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Were Neanderthals vegetarian – Neanderthals were people too and had knowledge of medicinal plants

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The human predecessors, Neanderthals, were thought to be non vegetarians. But a latest research completely denies this assertion. It claims that not only they were vegetarians, but that they had discovered aspirins some fifty thousand years ago and had good knowledge of medicinal plants.

The report claims that the Neanderthals didn’t hunt to feed themselves. On the contrary, they ate vegetables, mushrooms, pine nuts moss and other such non-veg diet.

Neanderthal herbal medicines

The new research also shows that our ancestors had rather solid knowledge of the medicinal plants, found in abundant supply in almost every part of the world. They knew as to which plant cured toothache and which one cured stomach bugs. They also transferred knowledge from one generation to the other.

Professor Keith Dobney, of Liverpool University, who was part of the team that researched the Neanderthal fossil over a period of several years says, ‘Not only can we now access direct evidence of what our ancestors were eating, but differences in diet and lifestyle also seem to be reflected in the commensal bacteria that lived in the mouths of both Neanderthals and modern humans…Major changes in what we eat have, however, significantly altered the balance of these microbial communities over thousands of years, which in turn continue to have fundamental consequences for our own health and well-being.

Lead author of the report, Laura Weyrich, a paleomicrobiologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia while talking about it says, “The typical view of a Neanderthal is a club-toting beast who grunts at people and lives in a cave…But this research, as well as years of other research, suggests that these were very capable and intelligent individuals that could pass down information from generation to generation and likely lived in friendly contact with humans at some point.”

Teeth have been an important part of the research when talking about human ancestors. This is more true about layers of hardened dental plaque on the surface of the teeth, known as calculus. This mineralized muck contains the DNA of food particles as well as the microbes that inhabited the mouth. “Dental calculus is calcified during the life of the individual, so it really locks in those bacteria and preserves it quite well,” Weyrich said.

Researcher said they didn’t find any evidence of meet in their teeth. Antonio Rosas, who works in Spain’s National Natural Science Museum says “We were surprised not to find any remains of meat in the Asturias Neanderthals, given that they were thought to be predominantly meat eaters…‘However, we have found evidence they enjoyed a varied diet including a wide range of plants. What’s more, some of these plants may well have been cooked before being eaten…We have evidence that this Neanderthal self-medicated. We have discovered that the plaque preserved in his teeth contains sequences of the pathogen Enterocytozoon bieneusi which causes gastrointestinal problems, including serious diarrhoea.

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