An international team of researchers discovered in one of the caves in South Africa evidence that our ancestors already 200 thousand years ago slept on “mattresses” made of grass, which served as beds – to protect from insects and contribute to a comfortable fall asleep.
The results of the work were published in the journal Science. The study of the archaeological site – the Border Cave in South Africa – was carried out by scientists from the Universities of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), Bordeaux, and Cote d’Azur (France), as well as specialists from Argentina and Belgium.
Researchers found in the cave remnants of grass bedding, shaped like mattresses, located at the back of the grotto. The herb was mixed with ash and ash, which scientists believe protected people from insect bites during sleep (crawling insects have a hard time navigating through the fine powder). Probably, the grass was placed on top of a layer of ash.
“Sometimes the ash was an old grass bed, which was simply burned. This helped to eliminate the pests. And sometimes the ashes were probably brought from the fire, ”says lead author Lyn Wadley. In addition, the grass itself, from which the “mattress” was made, had an insect repellent effect. Scientists determined that some of the fragments of these litters consisted of camphor leaves. The latter is still used by the villagers in East Africa to repel insects.
In addition to ash, fragments of stone tools and many grains of red ocher were found in the grass bedding. From this, the researchers conclude that the herb was used not only for sleep but possibly as a comfortable workplace as well. And ocher is what remains of the “war paint” of the ancestors themselves or their colored weapons.
The remains of the “beds” date back about 200 thousand years ago and they say that early Homo sapiens already thought about how not only to sleep comfortably but also to protect themselves from pests that spread the infection. Meanwhile, not all paleoanthropologists date representatives of our species 200 thousand years ago.
The well-known Russian anthropologist Stanislav Drobyshevsky, for example, believes that one can speak of genuine sapiens only in the context of 45 thousand years ago. Earlier dates, as a rule, include in our species human predecessors – Homo helmei and even Homo heidelbergensis. Thus, the find in a South African cave suggests that our ancestors thought about the comfort of sleep even before the appearance of modern humans.