Archaeologists working in South Africa have discovered something that would delight a stone-age Ferris Bueller: 200,000-year-old beds made of grass and ash. The archaeologists say the archaic beds show early humans had a desire to organize surfaces for sleeping and working. Evidence found surrounding the beds also suggests these early peoples were quite hygienic. (Unlike Mr. Bueller.)
The archaeologists found the 200,000-year-old beds in a rock shelter known as Border Cave. The cave—pictured at bottom—is located in the Lebombo Mountains near the border of South Africa and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland); it was occupied sporadically by early peoples between 227,000 years ago and 1,000 years ago.
“The bedding layers are towards the back of the cave, out of the wind and potentially safe from predators when fires [can be] built in front of them,” Lyn Wadley said in a report from Gizmodo. Wadley is a professor of archaeology at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, and the lead author of a study recently published in Science describing the beds.
The beds, which date to a period 100,000 years after the dawn of Homo sapiens, apparently demonstrate a surprising level of ingenuity. Wadley et al. hypothesize that the beds were made utilizing bundles of grass layered on top of ash. The bundles of grass, the archaeologists say, would’ve provided bedding, while the ash would’ve helped to repel insects.
“The grass layer would have been quite thick—probably at least [12 inches thick]—and laid on a soft, clean ash base…” Wadley told Gizmodo. The archaeologist added that the beds would’ve likely been as comfortable as a haystack or camp bed.
The area surrounding the beds gave equal insight into how Martha Stewart these early peoples went on Border Cave. According to Wadley, the beds were configured in a deliberate way, suggesting a desire to create clean surfaces for working and sleeping. The archaeologists also found small fireplaces next to the beds, which is a typical characteristic of hunter-gatherer campsites. These early bed builders may have used camphor-wood smoke, as well as its ash, to repel bugs.
Ultimately, Wadley says these findings provide evidence that these early people’s had “some basic knowledge of health care through practicing hygiene.” Wadley says these ancient humans also clearly exhibit the capacity to create and use fire and find uses for its byproducts.
What do you think about these 200,000-year-old beds made of grass and ash? Do these beds actually sound comfortable to you, or not so much? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments!
Feature image: Androstachys