A new study reveals that Spanish Neanderthals from El Sidrón dating back 42,000 to 50,000 years ago followed a plant-based diet composed of pine nuts, mushrooms and moss.
Researchers examined the teeth of two heavy-brown hominids (El Sidrón 1 and 2) and found out that these Neanderthals used natural remedies to ease pains.
“Neanderthals, not surprisingly, are doing different things, exploiting different things, in different places,” said Keith Dobney, a bioarcheologist and co-author of the research.
According to a journal writing in Nature: “Analyses of phytoliths, starch granules, and proteins from calcified dental calculus also indicate that Neanderthal diets included many plants, including some that were used for medicinal purposes.”
“Our findings support previous suggestions that El Sidrón 1 may have been self-medicating a dental abscess. This was the only individual whose calculus included sequences corresponding to poplar, which contains the natural pain-killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient in aspirin), and also notably sequences of the natural antibiotic producing Penicillium from the moulded herbaceous material.”
Another group of Neanderthals from Spy Cave in Belgium were included in the study and analysis showed that they ate woolly mammoths and sheep. This draws us to our conclusion that diet completely depended on where you were located.
However, according to Dobney, due to the small size of the sample that was analyzed, they cannot prove that Spanish Neanderthals were, in fact, vegetarians.
“I hesitate to say that we have clear, definite proof that Neanderthals in Spain were vegetarian,” he said. However, this research brings us one step closer to proving that our misconceptions about cavemen are wrong.