77,000 Year Old Bedding Discovered Within Threatened South African Excavation Site

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The oldest example of constructed bedding has been discovered at an excavation site in South Africa. The specimen dates back 77,000 years. An international team of archaeologists led by Christopher Miller, a junior professor at the University of Tübingen, found evidence of preserved plant bedding made with medicinal plants known for their mosquito repelling qualities.

The ancient beds were used for sleeping, work, and sitting around and their construction with medicinal plants showed that the cave inhabitants knew how to use local flora for health and survival.

Science Daily reports:

The ancient bedding was uncovered during excavations at Sibudu rock shelter (KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa), where Prof. Wadley has been digging since 1998. At least 15 different layers at the site contain plant bedding, dated between 77,000 and 38,000 years ago. The bedding consists of centimetre-thick layers of compacted stems and leaves of sedges and rushes, extending over at least one square meter and up to three square meters of the excavated area.

The discovery also tells the tale of a larger societal story.

Again, Science Daily:

In the article, the archaeologists argue that the increased occupation may correspond with changing demographics within Africa at the time. By around 50,000 years ago, modern humans began expanding out of Africa, eventually replacing archaic forms of humans in Eurasia, including the Neanderthals.

The discovery is timely because future work at the excavation site is threatened by development around the area. Scientists fear that if planned housing communities go through it could destroy the remains of this hotbed of ancient activity.

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Tags: South Africa