Friday, December 9, 2011
Earliest Human Beds Found in South Africa
"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," wrote Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanack. That may have held true a couple of hundred years ago, but when it comes to our ancient human ancestors, researchers don't know much about how—or even where—they slept. Now a team working in South Africa claims to have found the earliest known sleeping mats, made of plant material and dated up to 77,000 years ago—50,000 years earlier than previous evidence for human bedding. These early mattresses apparently were even specially prepared to be resistant to mosquitoes and other insects.
Early members of our species, Homo sapiens, were nomads who made their living by hunting and gathering. Yet they often created temporary base camps where they cooked food and spent the night. One of the best studied of these camps is Sibudu Cave, a rock shelter in a cliff face above South Africa's Tongati River, about 40 kilometers north of Durban. Sibudu was first occupied by modern humans at least 77,000 years ago and continued to serve as a favored gathering place over the following 40,000 years. Since 1998, a team led by Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, has been excavating at Sibudu, uncovering evidence for complex behaviors, including the earliest known use of bows and arrows.
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