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The ancient practice of medicine

March 10, 2017

No, the presence of medicinal plant DNA in the tooth enamel of a young Neanderthal with a dental abcess is not evidence that he was “self-medicating,” which term implies someone who is taking drugs apart from medical advice. That young man almost certainly did not discover those plants by personal trial and error, but was getting advice from whichever elders of his group had some knowledge of them. That tooth enamel is physical evidence that Neanderthals had the intelligence and social behavior to pass such knowledge from generation to generation.

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