Our extinct ancient relatives, Neanderthals, are more developed than previously thought

Our extinct ancient relatives, Neanderthals, are more developed than previously thought
By Simona Giunta, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Rockefeller University
 
Human ancestors, Homo neanderthalensis, who lived about 100,00 years ago, were able to self-medicate, showing knowledge of medicinal plants and their pain-relieveing and curative properties. A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature, discovered new evidence using DNA extracted from a tooth plaque. It contained traces of the naturally-occuring antibiotic, penicillin found in the penicillium fungus, and of bark roots and leaves containing salicylic acid, active ingredient in aspirin and other pain-killer. Because DNA from the same individual also reveled presence of a diarrhoea-causing pathogen and of dental abscess, scientists suggest that he may have been self-medicating to address these health issues.
 
Thanks to advancing in sequencing technologies, the study shows comprehensive sequencing of the neanderthal man DNA and its microbiome, portraying a novel view of Neanderthals and the society human ancestors lived in many thousands of years ago as more advanced than previously thought.
 

Skull and facial restorations of various prehistoric men. From left to right: 1, the Java man, Pithecanthropus; 2, the Neanderthal man; and 3, the Cro-Magnon man.Credits: J. H. McGregor.

 
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