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Build A Meal And We'll Reveal If You'd Survive As A Neanderthal

Scientists have analysed plaque on Neanderthal teeth and worked out what some of them actually ate. Could you stomach it?

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  1. Choose a protein source:

    SayCheesePlease / Getty Images
    Correct
    Incorrect
    A tasty lamb chop
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Some woolly rhinoceros (yum)
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I'd rather have tofu, thanks
  2. Choose a vegetable to have with it:

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Mushrooms
    Via Getty
    Mushrooms
    Via Getty
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Kale
    Via Getty
    Kale
    Via Getty
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I'm not into vegetables
    Via Emojipedia
    I'm not into vegetables
    Via Emojipedia
  3. How much do you want to add a carb to this meal?

    scorpp / Getty Images
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Carbs are my life
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I can live without carbs if I need to
  4. Choose something to snack on later:

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Pine nuts
    Pine nuts
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Crisps
    Crisps
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Chocolate
    Chocolate
  5. Would you eat this moss if you had to?

    Getty Images
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No
  6. What drink do you want after your meal?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wine
    Wine
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Tea
    Tea
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Just water
    Just water
  7. After eating all this you don't feel that great. Would you chew on some tree bark as a painkiller?

    Getty Images
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I'd give it a go!
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Um, pass the paracetamol, please

We know that some Neanderthals actually ate mushrooms, moss, wild sheep, and woolly rhinos because scientists have analysed the DNA found in ancient plaque on their teeth.

In a paper published in the journal Nature today, Laura Weyrich from the University of Adelaide and her colleagues describe what they found when they analysed the plaque found on the teeth of five Neanderthals: two found in Spain, two from Belgium, and one from Italy.
Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC

In a paper published in the journal Nature today, Laura Weyrich from the University of Adelaide and her colleagues describe what they found when they analysed the plaque found on the teeth of five Neanderthals: two found in Spain, two from Belgium, and one from Italy.

Some of them – the hunters – ate meat, but others appear to have been foragers with vegetarian diets.

The team found traces of woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep, showing that two of the Neanderthals lived up to their meat-eating reputation. But others show no evidence of having eaten meat, and seem to have made up a vegetarian diet including mushrooms, moss, and pine nuts by foraging from their surroundings.

This matches up with previous research that has also suggested the same group of Neanderthals from Spain did not eat meat. "We were joking around a lot saying that the [Spanish Neanderthals] are probably on the true paleo diet, this opportunistic diet of eating anything you can find to keep yourself alive, rather than going into a grocery store and picking out what vegetables you'd like to eat," Weyrich told BuzzFeed News.

She cautions that it's not yet clear whether what she and her colleagues found gives a comprehensive view of what these populations ate, or just a snapshot of what they ate right before they died.

“We really don’t know if we’re looking at their last meal, or random bits over their last 10 years of meals,” she said. "But we really think that the diets do reflect different lifestyles and ways of living and different environments the Neanderthals were living in, i.e. what food they had access to."

The team also found that one Neanderthal seemed to have treated a dental abscess using the bark from the poplar tree – a natural painkiller because it contains salicylic acid, an ingredient in aspirin.

  1. So now we know a bit more about their diet...do you think you'd survive eating like a Neanderthal?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes, bring on the moss and tree bark
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes, but only as a meat-eating Neanderthal
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Absolutely not
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So now we know a bit more about their diet...do you think you'd survive eating like a Neanderthal?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Yes, bring on the moss and tree bark
  2.  
    vote votes
    Yes, but only as a meat-eating Neanderthal
  3.  
    vote votes
    Absolutely not

Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Kelly Oakes at kelly.oakes@buzzfeed.com.

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