What were the daily lives of modern humans like more than 50,000 years ago?
Rare finds such as early ornaments, cave drawings and Middle Stone Age engravings are the subjects of a good deal of anthropological study and they provide clues. But in today's journal Science, an international team of researchers report another find that could give additional insight. What's more, it could place the use of herbal medicines much earlier than previously known.
Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, along with a team of archeologists, botanists and paleobotonists, recently dug up and analyzed the earliest known plant bedding at Sibudu, a South African rock shelter in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The plant bedding is 77,000 years old and 50,000 years older than the earliest reports of preserved bedding. It provides an intriguing look at the behavioral practices of early modern humans in Southern Africa.
"Domestic activities, like preparing and destroying plant bedding, can provide important information," said Wadley, an honorary professor at the Institute for Human Evolution at Witwatersrand.
Plant bedding is not as well known as other anthropological artifacts, but Wadley says it has the ability to provide information about changing settlement patterns and even demography.
Archeologists refer to plant bedding as a type of floor preparation constructed from plant layers. The discoveries in Sibudu suggest plant bedding there probably was used as a surface for working and sleeping, similar to how it is used in the region today.
At Sibudu, which has been undergoing digging since 1998, researchers found at least 15 layers of sediment containing plant bedding, dated between 77,000 and 38,000 years ago.
The bedding consists of centimeter-thick layers of compacted stems and leaves of sedges and rushes, extending over at least one square meter and up to three squar
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation