Scientists have found evidence that Neanderthals, the extinct cousins of modern humans, may have used toothpicks to remove food out of their teeth, just like us.
Researchers from University of York in the UK found traces of wood trapped in fossilised plaque stuck to Neanderthal teeth.
This may have come from toothpicks or possibly wooden tools used as a third hand during crafting, they said.
Scientists led by Anita Radini, an archaeologist at the University of York, examined teeth found at the El Sidron cave in Spain.
At this site, at least 13 Neanderthal skeletons have been found; the remains dating back 49,000 years, ‘Live Science’ reported.
Researchers were mostly after the fossilised plaque known as dental calculus. The plaque can trap tiny food particles, bacteria and whatever else enters the mouth. After the plaque hardens, it can survive even longer than bone, they said.
According to researchers, people generally did not have great oral hygiene hundreds and thousands of years ago.
The plaque that is stuck to very old teeth can be a useful capsule of material for reconstructing some mundane but important aspects of prehistoric life, such as how people ate and what their health was like, scientists said.
In the new study, researchers found bits of nonedible, and non-charred, conifer wood tissue in the plaque from some of the El Sidron teeth.
They said the most likely explanation for the finding is that these Neanderthals were putting toothpicks or wooden tools in their mouths.
The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.