This is a jaw from a Neanderthal individual in Belgium; this sample is between 42,000 and 50,000 years old. Scientists extracted ancient DNA and bacteria from the hardened teeth plaque of five Neanderthal individuals from Belgium and Spain. This provided a treasure trove of information on what these guys ate and what made them sick.
One Neanderthal’s teeth plaque shows he was eating poplar, which contains the natural painkiller Acetylsalicylic acid (Acetylsalicylic acid is the active ingredient in aspirin.)
He was also consuming plants covered in Penicillium mold, which of course generates the antibiotic penicillin. This individual was having a rough time; it appears he was attempting to treat a painful dental abcess as well as microscopic fungal parasites in his intestinal tract which were causing chronic diarrhea.
These are the skeletal remains of one of the Neanderthals whose plaque was tested. The tests revealed other interesting data about their diets (some were primarily meat eaters, some appeared to be vegetarian) and some evidence indicating that when Neanderthals and humans were interbreeding, they may have shared each other’s food and even kissed.