Stone Age turned out to be not so stone

(ORDO NEWS) — As scientists have found out, already 200 thousand years ago people preferred to sleep in comfortable beds. The oldest evidence of the use of grass as a mattress archaeologists have reported in the journal Science.

We are talking about a find made in the Pogranichnaya Cave, a famous archaeological site located in a rock between the kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was here that scientists found evidence that humans used grass mat to create comfortable sleeping and working areas at least 200,000 years ago.

These “beds”, covered with tufts of grass of the millet subfamily, were located in the part of the cave farthest from the entrance. The grass was thrown over a layer of ash, which, apparently, protected the ancient inhabitants of the cave from crawling insects.

Of course, today almost nothing is left of the old “mattresses”. However, anthropologists were able to identify the stems of ancient plants in the fossil remains. To do this, they used the latest microscopic methods and various methods for determining the chemical characteristics of the samples under study.

“We hypothesize that laying the grass bedding on the ash was a deliberate strategy not only to create a clean, isolated bedding base, but also to keep crawling insects away,” said Professor Lyn Wadley, principal investigator and lead author of the article at Science.

Scientists believe that the ashes could have been brought from the hearth, or could have been the result of burning the previous layer of dry grass. Its ancient inhabitants of the cave could set fire to cleanse the cave and destroy pests.

Some crops have used ash as a repellent against insects, the researchers explain, as the latter find it difficult to navigate the fine powder. Ash also prevents them from breathing and biting a person. As a result, they die of dehydration.

On one of the oldest “beds” of the Borderline Cave, the remains of a tarchonanthus, or camphor bush, were discovered. They were at the very top of the litter. This plant is still used to repel insects in rural East Africa.

Scientists found that people worked and slept on the grass, because fragments of stone tools were found in the remains of the grass, which at one time mixed with the grass bedding. In addition, archaeologists have found many tiny rounded grains of red and orange ocher in the bedding. Most likely, they came here from human skin or from some human-painted objects, Wadley notes.

At modern hunter-gatherer sites, bonfires are the gathering center for people. People regularly sleep next to them and do various jobs. Fire was also regularly lit in the Border Cave. Scientists made this conclusion by discovering foci in various layers, dating back 200-38 thousand years.

“Our research shows that already 200,000 years ago, close to the time of our species’ origin, people could start a fire at will, and also that they used fire, ash and medicinal plants to protect against pests and keep parking lots clean.” adds Professor Wadley.

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