In “Neanderthal dental tartar reveals evidence of medicine” (New Scientist, 18 July 2012), Colin Barras reports,
The tartar on Neanderthal teeth has a tale to tell. The chemicals and food fragments it contains reveal that our close relations huddled around fires to cook and consume plants – including some with medicinal properties. The find is the earliest direct evidence of self-medication in prehistory.
“It’s very surprising that the plants we were able to securely identify were those with a bitter taste and no nutritional qualities – but known medicinal properties,” says Hardy. Neanderthals were apparently able to select plants for medical use, she says.
Given how sophisticated modern palaeoanthropology is, we wonder if those Neanderthals managed to hide the still carefully enough …