The world’s oldest beds discovered in Africa

The hominins slept on a bed of grass with ash underneath.

(ORDO NEWS) — People who lived in Border Cave in southern Africa 227 thousand years ago slept on a bed of grass. This is the oldest discovery of its kind.

The study was carried out by a group of scientists led by Lin Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her team was excavating a cave in KwaZulu-Natal province that was inhabited in prehistoric times. The peoples who lived here have left many layers of sediment preserved due to the very arid conditions.

Team Wadley discovered in many of these layers there is a grass bed of several plant species, including Guinea grass ( Panicum maximum ), which still grows outside the cave. The oldest litter layers are between 227,000 and 183,000 years old.

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This litter was often placed on top of ash layers. In some places, this ash remains from burnt grass, suggesting that people burned their old pest-infested bedding and put new ones on top. Elsewhere, the ash is burnt wood.

Scientists believe that people deliberately put grass on the ash to scare off crawling insects. Found pieces of a camphor tree ( Cinnamomum camphora ) also speak of this – camphor is still used as an insect repellent.

“Maybe camphor was burned to create smoke, to scare away flying insects,” – Lin Wadley.
Wadley has no doubts that the grasses were used as bedding. They can only be found in the sheltered rear of the cave and often near hearths, which sometimes scorched the edges of the litter.

In ancient beds, pieces of ocher powder were also found, which could be used to cleanse people’s skin during sleep. However, there is ocher on the ceiling of the cave, so it is possible that it simply fell from there.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest known “bed” was 77,000 years old. She, too, was found by Wadley’s team, but in another cave in KwaZulu-Natal – Sibudu.

Her team also found evidence that people roasted vegetables 170,000 years ago. “If you want to understand the essence of everyday life, look at plants,” says Wadley.

Scientists speculate that the humans who lived in Border Cave 227,000 years ago were Homo sapiens. According to another version, it could be another species, Homo naledi.


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