Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ancient Bed Uncovered (Composed Of Insect-Repelling Plants) -- They Did Not Always Choose The Simplest Solutions

Unearthed in Sibudu Cave, in KwaZulu-Natal, the ancient bed was made of bundles of sedge and wild quince leaves.

From Digital Journal
Posted Dec 9, 2011 by Leigh Goessl

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

'The early inhabitants of Sibudu had an intimate knowledge of the plants surrounding the shelter, and were aware of their medicinal uses,' says Professor Wadley.


  1. Wow, this is fascinating. We could learn so much from our ancestors.

  2. It is absolutely astonishing. Curtis

  3. I'm with Nin. Remarkable! Also, there appears to be a footprint next to the bed? Whether or not it is, I wondered how large this bed is. I found some additional information on examiner.com in an article written by Paul Hamaker, which referenced the cited article in Science. Apparently, this is the oldest of a number of old beds and bedding found at the site. As for the size, Hamaker writes:

    "The beds could be as small as a square meter to three square meters. This indicates multiple persons probably occupied the same bedding area. The size of the bedding used indicates a family unit probably slept together. The probability of multigenerational family groups sleeping together is most probable."

    Thanks for posting this article!

  4. Nell: I wondered about the size and did additional research also. I figured that those interested in this would pursue further research. As usual, I tried to put myself in the context of the "bed inventors" and rejoice for the ancients that they weren't relying on me for invention or inspiration. I do feel that we stand on the shoulders of giants, who have made way for midgets. If you pay any attention at all to the mainstream political coverage of the Iowa caucuses, for example, you'll see what I mean. Leaving the politics out of it and simply sticking with the media, our 24 X 7 X 365 journalism is a sorry, repetitive, self-referential thing. Curtis

  5. The "bed inventors" would have not have derived ANY novel ideas from me either. I would be the one observing what they had achieved and might find small ways to expand on what they had created (with very dicey results). Barry, on the other hand, is a novel thinker. That's always been at the core of his work. One day, I'll tell you what he does. I'm definitely the uber-midget in the family. But, of course, I'm not the most objective critic when it comes to Barry, and he thinks my opinion of him is unfounded.

    I haven't been able to tolerate the blanket coverage of the Iowa caucuses, so I've watched very little of it. It's too depressing, and the monotony of it leaves me bored, as well. Do these pundits and anchors really believe anyone cares what they think? Nell

  6. Nell: 1. You should trademark "uber-midget." 2. Yes, the pundits think people care. I think mass media -- and these people live at the top of the pyramid of that industry, i.e., they actually attract predictably large-ish audiences and pull down large to mega-large salaries -- creates a looking-glass world where normal behavior rules are suspended. I mean, if you met a man behaving the way, for example, Chris Matthews normally carries on on the street, you'd probably think he was crazy. Perhaps Matthews isn't the best example, though. He contracted malaria during the early 1990s on a trip to Africa and I'm convinced that it's affected him. I think that if you live in a world where you run (or help to run) something other than your mouth, it grounds you a bit more. Curtis