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South Africa: Birthplace of the Bed

December 23, 2013

South Africa: Birthplace of the Bed

Archaeologists claim that South Africa is home to the oldest known mattress in the world after the discovery of a 77 000 year old mattress in the Sibudu Cave in Kwazulu Natal.

The mattress, which is 50 000 years older than any previously discovered, was made from layers of reeds and bulrushes with an insect repelling top layer. The mattress is estimated to have been about 30 centimeters thick, with a surface area of around 2 square meters, and more than likely accommodated the whole family. According to scientists, the idea of only one or two people using a bed is virtually unknown to early people or modern hunter-gatherers such as the Inuit or Kalahari Bushmen, where whole families or kinship groups would use the same bed. 

According to the scientists who found the bed, it was rather comfortable and it even had an aromatic layer of Cryptocarya woodii, a type of laurel tree, that worked as a mosquito repellant. This indicates that the inhabitants of these caves had a thorough understanding plants and were aware of their medical uses. Analysis of the bed shows that the users frequently burnt old bedding, possibly as  a method to prevent bed bugs. 

The oldest bed that is still in use, is an antique four-poster bed in the Berkeley Castle estate in Gloucestershire, UK, that has been in continual use since 1608. The bed has slept 15 generations and, according to the occupants, is still very comfortable. 

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