Recent investigations into the teeth of a Neanderthal skeleton have suggested that Neanderthals knew about medicinal substances. What is revealed by the smile of the Neanderthal?

Analysing the plaque on the Neanderthal’s teeth, scientists have found:

– Traces of poplar, which the Neanderthal man had been chewing

– Traces of antibacterial mould

– A painful dental abscess

Poplar contains the same active ingredient as aspirin, whilst the antibacterial mould discovered within the Neanderthal’s mouth contains the same substance (penicillium) which is used in penicillin. Thus, it appears that this prehistoric patient knew how to self-medicate to relieve the pain and infection associated with their dental abscess.

As this article explains in more detail, this Neanderthal may well have acted as his own dentist – or maybe even gone to a special rudimentary dentist for treatment.