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Teeth Size of Neanderthals

By JamieBoyd1 Apr 23, 2013 1178 Words
The Teeth size of Neanderthals has given Anthropologists and scientists a plethora of information to what types of foods they ate in the past. Scientists have studied Neanderthals teeth and the dental plaque to discover their past food tastes. It has been shown that food had gotten stuck on the teeth of these cavemen, allowing the types of food they ate to be researched and studied. Neanderthals show knowledge and capabilities that have never been thought, and may be smarter than given credit. Scientists predicted what Neanderthals once ate is by the types of animal remains found near and around the places they once inhabited, and by the isotopes found in their teeth. By knowing what types of animals lived around the area of the Neanderthals, we can only assume that they hunted and ate them. The Carbon isotopes found in the Neanderthal teeth was the main evidence of an intricate diet. The Microfossils of plants were found in the plaque of their teeth from many years ago. When dental plaque forms it becomes isolated, and the plant remains are leftover. This shows that we are able to benefit from bad dental care and the poor hygiene of the Neanderthals. Studies of the showed the Neanderthals had a very diverse diet. The study allowed the people of today to see that these people of the past enjoyed sweet treats like nuts, cereals, and legumes. Studies show the cavemen may have eaten water lilies, which were not polluted during this time. Evidence led us to believe that the Neanderthals were capable of harvesting food. Pollen was found close to these sites also gave more reason to believe that their diets were not strictly meat; the pollen proves the Neanderthals ate some type of plants (Viegas 2010). It is has been shown that these people of the past lived over 200,000 years. It’s hard to believe that the Neanderthals were able to survive extreme climate changes, especially such harsh freezing climate. (Goudarzi 2008) As modern humans, we have assumed that the Neanderthals died off due to their meat only eating habits. Poor teeth cleaning habits of the Neanderthals benefited modern humans, by giving us information on the past. Accusations of poor meat only eating habits were only because of lack of plant evidence. According to many university studies, the Neanderthal diet was in fact more than just meat. The proof of a diet with variety is shocking because we have assumed the Neanderthals died off because they just ate meat. The other foods eaten like dates and nuts were high in nutrients, proving that the Neanderthals were able to adapt to their conditions and surroundings. (Smithsonian 2011) The plaque and decay on the Neanderthal teeth showed that these people were intelligent enough to cook the barley they ate. This is shocking to many people because we have just assumed the Neanderthals were not smart enough to do so, and were not capable of cooking. Amanda Henry, an anthropologist, said “Overall, these data suggest that Neanderthals were capable of complex food-gathering behaviors that included both hunting of large game animals and the harvesting and processing of plant foods,” (Viegas 2010) It is now known the Neanderthals were very refined. These cavemen were not only able to hunt, but were capable of returning to different plants according to their harvest time. The Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago. We have believed that the reason for this was due to a diet lacking important nutrients. In fact, these past people actually had a type of sophisticated diet for their time period. Microfossils were the key to us unlocking the past. Neanderthal remains have given us an abundance of information that we did not previously know. The teeth examined came from Europe and the Middle East. The evidence shown by the research was that these people often ate starches, green vegetables, and nuts. This evidence directly shows us that the Neanderthals were progressive (Prigg 2012). While we are advanced technologically, we have just believed the Neanderthals were ignorant due to their lack of technology. Through examination of dental plaque, we learned that the people of the past were able to adjust a lot better than we once believed. A primary example of the Neanderthals being advanced was because they were able to recognize they could use plants for self-medication. We have assumed that the Neanderthals used self-medication because of the variety of plants discovered near the sites they inhabited. The way we are positive of diverse plant life near the Neanderthal sites is due to the dental plaque. They not only hunted large game animals, but were capable of plant gathering. The fact that these people were able to cook and recognize plants could have a medicinal use makes us question what else the Neanderthals were able to do. It is thought they were not even able to do simple tasks we do today, but this study has shed light on what happened in the past. The diversity of the plant life found in tooth decay and plaque shows us that the cavemen were well informed and aware of the variety of plants that could access. The Neanderthals even had enough knowledge to self-medicate, which is astonishing because it has always been thought they weren’t capable, and even lacked the knowledge. They also were able to adjust to extreme climate changes, which also makes us think how they were able to do so. (Prigg 2012)

It’s hard to believe that we have gained such knowledge and evidence of these Neanderthals due to lack of brushing and flossing their teeth. This evidence found was a huge breakthrough in helping us understand the past, and allowing us to know what really happened to these people. It has shed light on the Neanderthals, and instead of assuming they only ate meat and weren’t knowledgeable we now know they were smart and had a complex diet. In conclusion, Neanderthals were a knowledgeable group of people and were more than capable of adjusting to their surroundings. They may due with the small amount of resources they were able to obtain. The Neanderthals were not just Carnivorous, but ate different types of food creating a complex diet. This find that the Neanderthals did not just eat meat has allowed us to become curious, and wonder how the Neanderthals really became extinct.

Works Cited

Goudarzi, Sara. "Neandertals Ate Their Veggies, Tooth Study Shows." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 28 Apr. 2008. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Harmon, Katherine. "Fossilized Food Stuck in Neandertal Teeth Indicates Plant-rich Diet." Fossilized Food Stuck in Neandertal Teeth Indicates Plant-rich Diet. N.p., 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Prigg, Mark. "The Real Neanderthal Diet." Mail Online. N.p., 18 July 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

"Starch Grains Found on Neandertal Teeth Debunks Theory That Dietary Deficiencies Caused Their Extinction." Smithsonian Science. N.p., 3 Jan. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Viegas, Jennifer. "Discovery News." Editorial. DNews. N.p., 28 Dec. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

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