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Flavouring food: the contribution of chimpanzee behaviour to the understanding of Neanderthal calculus composition and plant use in Neanderthal diets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2015

Sabrina Krief
Affiliation:
Eco-anthropologie et ethnobiologie, UMR 7206, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 43 Rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France Sebitoli Chimpanzee Project, Sebitoli UWA Station, Fort Portal, Uganda
Camille Daujeard
Affiliation:
Préhistoire, Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, UMR 7194, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 1 Rue René Panhard, 75013 Paris, France
Marie-Hélène Moncel
Affiliation:
Préhistoire, Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, UMR 7194, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 1 Rue René Panhard, 75013 Paris, France
Noemie Lamon
Affiliation:
Institut de Biologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Rue Emile-Argand 11, Neuchâtel 2000, Switzerland Budongo Conservation Field Station, PO Box 362, Masindi, Uganda
Vernon Reynolds
Affiliation:
Budongo Conservation Field Station, PO Box 362, Masindi, Uganda School of Anthropology, Oxford University, 51–53 Banbury Road, Oxford, UK

Extract

In a recent study, Hardy et al. (2012) examined ten samples of dental calculus from five Neanderthal individuals from El Sidrón in northern Spain (occupation dates between 47300 and 50600 BP). In calculus from a young adult, they discovered the presence of compounds (dihydroazulene, chamazulene and methylherniarin) that occur in yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and camomile (Matriarca chamomilla). In preference to other hypotheses, the authors proposed that these two plants were used for self-medication. In this paper, we do not reject the self-medication hypothesis, but our observations of wild chimpanzees in Uganda, at Sonso in the Budongo Forest Reserve and at Kanyawara and Sebitoli in Kibale National Park (separated by about 150km), as well as ethnological and palaeontological evidence, lead us to propose three other explanations for the presence of these compounds. In addition, data on Neanderthal behaviour suggest that their subsistence and technological strategies were complex.

Type
Debate
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd., 2015 

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