Saturday, December 10, 2011

Human evolution: a place to rest your weary head

Researchers of early human behavior in South Africa have recently found an artifact that dates back 77,000 years and suggests "how Homo sapiens made the transition to modernity": a comfortable mattress.  Caves in South Africa have been a source of information about early human development, and the most recent discovery came from a cave called Sibudu.  There, Lyn Wadley and her coworkers from the University of Witwatersrand found a bedroom whose floor rose over time as different groups occupied the room and abandoned it again, leaving debris behind.

The oldest layer is 77,000 years old and contains a mattress made of layered plants, a few square meters large.  One section of the mattress interesting contained insecticidal plants while other sections were burned, suggesting Sibudu residents also dealt with pest control across the years.  Other artifacts in the bedroom, inhabited by so many different generations, may help scientists learn about human development and their development of the world around them.  The article notes, "The origins of modern, consumer-good-loving humanity might thus be illuminated by this scene of ancient domestic bliss."

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