What comes to mind when you think of Neanderthals? Aside from using the word as an insult, images of wildly uncivilized meat eating brutes pop into my head. But a recent study shows that 44,000 to 36,000-year-old Neanderthals from Iraq and Belgium were more civilized than we once thought. From studying their teeth, we’ve learned that Neanderthals ate barley, dates, legumes and even water lilies.
Learn more about the findings on our prehistoric pals after the jump!
The U.S. study led by Anthropologist Amanda Henry from the Center for Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology proves that Neanderthals ate grains, vegetables and meat in a similar fashion as modern-day humans. Henry and her team studied plaque buildup on fossilized Neanderthal teeth and discovered many of the particles “had undergone physical changes that matched experimentally-cooked starch grains, suggesting that Neanderthals controlled fire much like early modern humans,” said Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a statement.
The findings also revealed:
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.
The rather squat, low-browed Neanderthals resided in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for about 170,000 years but all evidence of their existence disappeared 28,000 years ago, with their last known refuge in Gibraltar.
Next time you compare someone’s behavior to a Neanderthal, you may want to think twice!