Recently Discovered Prehistoric Cave Bed is World’s Oldest

December 9, 2011 / South Africa, Africa
Excavation at South Africa's Sibudu Cave

Photo by L. Wadley

A family sized mattress found recently at the bottom of Sibudu Cave in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa is thought to be the worlds oldest.

Consisting of layers of reeds and rushes below bedding made from compacted grasses and leafy plants, the bed accumulated over a period of 39,000 years. With the oldest layers up to 77,000 years old, the bed is 50,000 years older than any previously discovered.

At 30 centimeters (12 inches) or so high, and covering an area of 2 square meters (22 square feet), the bed would have a been a comfortable spot for the whole family to bed down.

Researches studying the find suspect that they may have also discovered the earliest known use of medicinal plants by humans. Leaves from the tree Cryptocarya woodii, or river wild-quince, a medicinal plant known for its insect-killing ability, were found on the bed, possibly used as a sheet to help protect against insects.

The study appears tomorrow in the journal Science.

Oldest Known Mattress Found; Slept Whole Family [National Geographic]

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