Studying Neanderthal teeth reveals much about their lives
For years scientists believed that Neanderthals only ate meat, and it was conjectured that the lack of variety in their diets played a role in their eventual extinction. But new research reveals that Neanderthals had a much more varied diet than was previously known.
Analyzing ancient dental remains, scientists have discovered evidence that Neanderthals ate legumes, date palms and grass seeds, along with wild varieties of barley, rye and wheat relatives. It also looks like Neanderthals cooked their food; this last finding is particularly significant, because cooking food would have had several powerful effects on their society. Cooking plants can improve their nutritional benefits, while the preparation of food can affect the social organization of a group.
We now know that our old ideas of Neanderthals as slow-witted, ape-like savages were all wrong. Neanderthals were hunters, but they also harvested crops and cooked their meals. The more we learn about these complex and intelligent creatures, the more mysterious their eventual disappearance becomes.
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