Ancient DNA from dental plaque is revealing intriguing new information about Neanderthals including specific menu items in their diet like woolly rhinoceros and wild mushrooms as well as their use of plant-based medicine to cope with pain and illness. Scientists said on Wednesday they genetically analyzed plaque from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal remains from Spain and 36,000-year-old remains from Belgium. The plaque, material that forms on and between teeth, contained food particles as well as microbes from the mouth as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. At Belgium's Spy Cave site, which at the time was a hilly grassy environment home to big game, the Neanderthal diet was meat-based with woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep, along with wild mushrooms. Some 12,000 years earlier, at Spain's El Sidrón Cave site, which was a densely forested environment likely lacking large animals, the diet was wild mushrooms, pine nuts, moss and tree bark, with no sign of meat. The two popula...

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