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Fossilized plants from Neanderthals’ teeth contradict accepted theory of their diet

| | April 20, 2016

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Neanderthals were ancient, compared to us. They lived long before civilisation, before even the most prehistoric dentists began experimenting with ways to tackle tooth decay.

So if you were to guess at what kind of teeth they had, you might expect the worst: a mouth full of rotting and missing teeth.

It is becoming clearer that this was far from the case. One recent study actually suggests that Neanderthals lost fewer teeth than humans with equivalent diets. What’s more, another new analysis offers a hint that they used toothpicks to keep their teeth clean.

If you do not brush your teeth, plaque builds up and transforms into a hardened substance called dental calculus. This accumulates into a little hollow between your teeth and gums. The same was true of Neanderthals.

Until recently, researchers studying ancient teeth simply scrubbed off the calculus. “They thought it was just a waste product,” says Karen Hardy, ICREA research professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

However, this calculus has revealed unexpected surprises. In the last 10 years, Hardy and others have shown that it contains micro-fossils of ancient plants.

These tell us in great detail what our close relatives ate. For instance, we have evidence that they ate edible grass, nuts and legumes.

Read full, original post: What Neanderthals’ healthy teeth tell us about their minds

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