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article imageAncient bed uncovered, composed of insect-repelling plants

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 9, 2011 in Science
Durban - Researchers have uncovered the world's oldest bed to date. Unearthed in Sibudu, near the western South African city of Durban, scientists have found ancient bedding made of plants.
The international team, led by Lyn Wadley of Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, found fossilized mats in a South African cave that are believed to have been used as beds in prehistoric time. Excavation efforts found at least 15 layers of sediment, which included plant bedding dated between 77,000 and 38,000 years ago.
According to Live Science, researchers said the find revealed how creative early man was.
Researchers believe this type of bedding was used as a multi-purpose item. The ancient bedding, made of evergreens, was constructed of medicinal type plants that would have warded off insects.
"The selection of these leaves for the construction of bedding suggests that the early inhabitants of Sibudu had an intimate knowledge of the plants surrounding the shelter, and were aware of their medicinal uses," Wadley said. "Herbal medicines would have provided advantages for human health, and the use of insect-repelling plants adds a new dimension to our understanding of behavior 77,000 years ago."
Wadley has been working at this site since 1998.
Evidence suggests early man periodically burned the leaves, possibly as a way to ward off pests, or to simply get rid of debris. Wadley said she expects to learn ancient man used these leaves for medicinal purposes as well. Many of the properties of the unearthed samples are composed of Cryptocarya woodii, a river wild-quince which, Wadley said, in modern day is used in traditional pain killers and other medicines.
The Associated Press (via Washington Post) reported Marlize Lombard, an anthropologist from the University of Johannesburg, has researched indications that ancient Sibudu people used intricate creations such as bows and arrows, which were complex technology for that time. Lombard said Wadley's find is also complex.
The weapons and the bedding “show that people then already had very advanced ways of thinking about things, doing things,” Lombard said. Like people today, she said, they “did not always choose the simplest solutions.”
Modern discoveries of ancient worlds are illuminating ways early man was inventive and resourceful. Recently Digital Journal reported an ancient fish hook was found in southeast Asia, which suggests man was deep-sea fishing tens of thousands of years ago.
According to the World's Record Academy, this finding sets the world record for oldest bed.
The complete findings of this remarkable discovery are shared in the Dec. 9 issue of the journal Science.
More about ancient history, South Africa, ancient bedding, insect repellent, Durban
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