Turns Out Even Neanderthals Used Painkillers

By Holly Brockwell on at

One of the best things about living in the future is the vast array of medical aids available to us, including a smorgasbord of painkiller choices when we've got a headache we're describing as a "migraine" so people feel more sorry for us.

Despite this, a startling number of people we'll call 'babies' refuse to take their meds and instead whinge about the pain, imagining this somehow makes them more 'hardcore' despite crying every two minutes that it huuuuurts.

Well, a new study from the Universities of Adelaide and Liverpool has found that even Neanderthals had the good sense to take painkillers when they needed to, and there's not much more macho than a caveman.

The four Neanderthals studied lived around 50,000 years ago, some in the awesomely-named Spy Cave in Belgium and some in Spain's El Sidrón. One of the specimens in the latter cave had an abscess on his jaw and parasites in his gut, so he was probably in a decent amount of pain. The researchers found evidence of penicillium – a good 40,000 years before we invented penicillin – and poplar, which contains the active ingredient from aspirin.

Alan Cooper, one of the study's authors, told New Atlas "Apparently, Neanderthals possessed a good knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and seem to be self-medicating. [...] Our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination."

Hear that? Not only are they not stupid, they also took painkillers when they were in pain because again, they're not stupid. Are you less smart than a Neanderthal? No? Then take your 29p paracetamol and be grateful. [Nature via New Atlas]

Main image: Pexels