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This method really is a new groundbreaking way to do that, we figured out that we could obtain bacterial DNA from dental plaque that was calcified on ancient skeletons. This is the first time it has been applied on an extinct species. Join the conversationSee the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.
These particular organisms looks to be shared between Neanderthals and humans about 120,000 year ago, or about the time that humans and Neandertals were interbreeding, these interbreeding encounters were often described as brash, rough one-night stands, but if they were swapping oral microorganisms, it means they were also swapping spit. So, potentially kissing or food sharing would have been involved, which suggests that these encounters may have been much more friendly than anyone imagined.
In ancient dental calculus, we are able to find DNA from the microorganisms in the plaque, but also anything else that has gone into the mouth, including food or work items -- for example if ancient people were cutting rope with their teeth, we might be able to see the DNA from the plant material used to make the rope.
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