Neanderthals ate their veg with herbs, according to reports in ScienceDaily 17 July 2012 and Nature News 18 July 2012 and Naturwissenschaften, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-012-0942-0. An international group of scientists has studied microscopic fragments and the chemical composition of plaque on Neanderthal teeth found in the El Sidrón Cave in northern Spain. This cave contained the bones of 13 Neanderthal individuals and researchers were able to obtain teeth from five individuals to study. They found starch granules, indicating Neanderthals ate cooked starchy vegetables, as well as chemicals indicating they ate nuts, grasses and green vegetables. Also found were traces of wood smoke, providing further evidence of cooking. Of particular interest were chemicals found in bitter herbs such as yarrow and camomile, which have no real nutritional value, suggesting they used these as medicinal herbs.

 The researchers summarised their findings: “Our results provide the first molecular evidence for inhalation of wood-fire smoke and bitumen or oil shale and ingestion of a range of cooked plant foods. We also offer the first evidence for the use of medicinal plants by a Neanderthal individual. The varied use of plants that we have identified suggests that the Neanderthal occupants of El Sidrón had a sophisticated knowledge of their natural surroundings which included the ability to select and use certain plants”.

Antonio Rosas, of the Museum of Natural History in Madrid, one of the researchers, commented: “El Sidrón has allowed us to banish many of the preconceptions we had of Neanderthals. Thanks to previous studies, we know that they looked after the sick, buried their dead and decorated their bodies. Now another dimension has been added relating to their diet and self-medication”.

 Nature News, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Rosas is correct – all detailed studies of Neanderthal bones, and the items found associated with them, fit into the human range and there remains no reason for classifying them as anything other than human. Neanderthals also had a larger average brain size than current humans, so there is no reason to think they were any less intelligent than modern man. It is no surprise to us that Neanderthal abilities are being regularly ‘upgraded’ since it is now obvious they also had “a sophisticated knowledge of their natural surroundings which included the ability to select and use certain plants”.

From the publication of our first Evidence News many years ago, we have been encouraging readers to note well that the data actually does fit the Biblical world view where man was created perfect and a vegetarian, who after Noah’s flood and Babel, with the onset of ice and snow, had to survive an increasingly harsh environment and became omnivorous with God’s permission (Genesis 8:22-9:6), and has ended as modern Homo sapiens who, surprise, surprise have a smaller ‘thinker’ than either Neanderthals or Cro magnons. (See our slide show “Brain Drain” here.) The Biblical view of the real “descent of man” from created perfection works far better than the evolutionist faith position that cave-men were the product of upward evolution from ape-like creatures to cave dwellers to modern man. We are sure this Biblical accuracy is one reason the Bible also includes challenging statements such as “Prove all things and only keep the things that are true!” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) (Ref. anthropology, diet, medicine)

Evidence News 14 November 2012