Neanderthal medicine found, according to reports in BBC News, Science Daily, Science (AAAS) News 8 March 2017 and Nature 2017; doi: 10.1038/nature21674.
An international team of researchers has studied dental calculus, the hard plaque that accumulates on teeth, from Neanderthals found in the Spy cave in Belgium and the El Sidrón cave in Spain. Microbes and tiny fragments of food get trapped in calculus and the scientists were able to identify the microbes and food sources from DNA that preserved in the plaque.
The Belgium specimens indicated a meat based diet of woolly rhino and mouflon (a type of wild sheep) along with mushrooms. The individuals from the Spanish site were more vegetarian, dining on pine nuts, mushrooms, moss and tree bark. This fits with previous studies of Neanderthal teeth that indicate there was a lot of regional variation in their diet, and they ate a mixed diet of meat and plants.
The most intriguing find was one of the jaws from the El Sidrón cave showed evidence of a dental abscess and this individual’s plaque DNA included Penicillium mould, the source of penicillin, and poplar bark, which is known to contain aspirin. Alan Cooper of University of Adelaide commented: “Apparently, Neanderthals possessed a good knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and seem to be self-medicating. The use of antibiotics would be very surprising, as this is more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin. Certainly our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination”.
Editorial Comment: My father came from Scotland and amused us with the story about how in his youth (before and after World War 1) the 13th bun of the bakers dozen of Hot Cross Buns was used for healing. He recounted that they put the 13th bun aside and it grew blue mould, then when anyone in the family was ill they ate a bit of the fungus encrusted bun. Yep you are right, we now know that blue mould as penicillin and its more refined version became a life-saving drug in World War 2. So it does not surprise us earlier mankind had also noticed the same relationship.
The simplistic view of Neanderthals really does need to change in the popular imagination, but this will not happen until anthropologists and museums stop pretending Neanderthals were primitive pre-humans of a different species to modern man. All the evidence shows that they were fully formed Homo sapiens using their God-given brains to make the most of living in tough conditions, and dealing with similar problems to modern humans, such as tooth decay and infection. Here is yet another study that confirms that Neanderthals were resourceful people who used whatever resources they found in the places they were living, just like all the people who found themselves in new situations after being dispersed from the Tower of Babel.
Neanderthals were not primitive beings evolving upwards – they were fully human beings facing a degenerate world of death, disease and struggle brought about by human sin and God’s judgement.
Evidence News vol. 17 No. 7
3 May 2017
Creation Research Australia
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