Neanderthals and pain relief

The latest research out of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, suggests that Neanderthals might have been eating poplar which contains the active ingredient in aspirin. They also may have been eating a natural antibiotic mold that resembles what we now call penicillium.

This research was carried out in Belgium and Spain, where the group found a set of teeth from the smile of a 50,000 year old Neanderthal. It appears that the thick layer of plaque on the teeth preserved the bacteria that was trapped in his smile. His dentist wouldn’t have been happy!

Three research points:

  1. A tooth they found in a cave was covered with plaque that preserved the bacteria and food underneath.
  2. It appears Neanderthals were eating poplar as a natural painkiller. They acted as their own dentist.
  3. They appear to have been eating an antibiotic mold to prevent illness

Even more intriguing, “we could also detect a natural antibiotic mold [penicillium] not seen in the other specimens,” Cooper said.

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