Planet Earth

Scientists Find the Oldest Known Sleeping Mats, Laced With Insect-Repelling Leaves

80beatsBy Valerie RossDec 9, 2011 7:59 PM

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Remnants of a Cryptocarya woodii leaf, which researchers say was part of the oldest bedding ever found

In a South African cave, researchers have uncovered traces of the oldest known human bedding

, 77,000-year-old mats made of grasses, leaves, and other plant material. While it's not especially surprising that early humans would have found a way to improve the cold, generally unpleasant experience of sleeping on a cave floor

, archaeologists know little about our ancestors' sleeping habits and habitats

. Using scanning electron microscopy

, the researchers identified several species of local rushes and grasses that made up the bulk of the mattress, as well as leaves of the Cryptocarya woodii tree

. These leaves contain chemical compounds that repel mosquitoes, lice, and other insects, suggesting that the cave's ancient residents protected their bedding with natural insecticide

. Read more at ScienceNOW

.

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