Early humans knew how to make comfy, pest-free beds, study says

Researchers discovered fossilized grass beds sitting atop layers of ash in Border Cave, an archaeological site in South Africa.

Plant material is rarely well preserved in the fossil record, which makes understanding the use of comfortable plant-based bedding used by our ancestors difficult to track over time.

The grass was arranged on layers of ash, which serves as a deterrent to pests because insects can't crawl through its fine texture, it dehydrates them and it can also block their breathing and biting.

"We see the cognitive foundations for later innovations from close to the origin of our species," said Lyn Wadley, lead study author and honorary professor of archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, in an email.

Within the bedding, the scientists found evidence of tiny grains of red and orange ocher, a natural clay pigment used by early humans.

These early humans likely lived in hunter-gatherer societies, meaning these prehistoric ancestors of ours moved around often, but using fire and ash to clean their camps would have allowed them to extend their stay in the cave.

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