The astonishing findings show our ancient ancestors used plants to relieve toothache and stomach bugs before the discovery of aspirin or penicillin.
Ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neanderthals – our nearest extinct relative – has provided remarkable new insights into their behaviour, diet and evolutionary history, including their use of plant-based medicine to treat pain and illness.Researchers from University of Adelaide in Australia and University of Liverpool in the UK, unveiled the complexity of Neanderthal behaviour, including dietary differences between different groups and knowledge of medication.
"Dental plaque traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth - preserving the DNA for thousands of years," said Laura Weyrich, from University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).
"Genetic analysis of that DNA 'locked-up' in plaque, represents a unique window into Neanderthal lifestyle, revealing new details of what they ate, what their health was like and how environment impacted their behaviour," she said. The team analysed and compared dental plaque samples from four Neanderthals found at the cave sites of Spy in Belgium and El Sidron in Spain.
These four samples range from 42,000 to around 50,000 years old and are the oldest dental plaque ever to be genetically analysed. "We found that the Neanderthals from Spy Cave consumed woolly rhinoceros and European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms," said Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD.
Source: metro.co.uk, deccanchronicle.com
© 2013-2014 Scientific India Magazine
Note: This website is for educational Purposes only.