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(Of SINC Agency). The human prehistoric seated at Border Cave, a rocky shelter located in the mountains Lebombo KwaZulu-Natal (south Africa), they used a mix of weeds and ashes to create beds comfortable and free of insects, 200,000 years ago, according to an international study published in the latest issue of the magazine “Science”.

This finding assumes the human use more ancient beds of grass registered, surpassing more than 100,000 years, the evidence known to date.

These “mattresses” represent the ability of the human of the Stone Age to organize and arrange the space for everyday tasks, with the use of grasses –Panicum maximum, in the case of the Border Cave– to build beds, areas for relaxation and work. In turn, illustrates the knowledge that these people were on the ash as insect repellents , showing a complex behavior in the resolution of problems.

Because the vegetable matter is generally preserved in poor conditions, archaeological evidence of using plants for anything other than food are scarce and difficult to interpret. The use of beds of grass oldest of which was known –before the Border Cave– dated from made 77.000 years ago, when the human prehistoric Sibudu (KwaZulu-Natal, south Africa) used layers of reeds interspersed with medicinal plants and ashes to cover living spaces in rocks.

Close to the origin of our species

Lyn Wadley , principal investigator of the work at the Institute for Evolutionary Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand (south Africa), believes that these practices began long before this previous evidence: “ 200,000 years Ago, near the origin of our species, humans were using fire, ashes and plant s to keep camps clean and free of pests. This strategy is simple that we see in Border Cave offer us a glimpse of the lifestyle of our ancestors”. The Border Cave contains a record well preserved human occupation flashing that covers nearly 230,000 years.

Remains of grass fossilized, with 200,000 years old – L. Wadley

Esteban and Paloma de la Peña, coautoras Spanish of this study, also at the University of the Witwatersrand, explained to SINC that this behavior “may be regarded as test of analogical reasoning means knowing two aspects of reality, which are compared and analysed as a whole.” In the case of the inhabitants of Border Cave, they were aware of a problem: the discomfort. To do this they sought a solution, which was to collect herbs in large quantities and create resting areas.

These beds prehistoric were used as much to rest as to condition spaces of the everyday work of these people, as they have been found on the beds remains small carving stone tools and remains of ochre, which could be used for decorations or body of objects.

it Is possible that the grasses used by the ancient inhabitants of Border Cave and that still grow near this cave, they were infested by ticks carrying diseases, who stung the human. For this reason, Stephen and the Rock indicate that these human “ they realized that the ashes paralyze the breathing apparatus of ticks ” or “there is a lower incidence of insects when they use the ash as a base of their beds.”

Snippet of grass seen in the electron microscope – L. Wadley

This behavior to have its origin in the burning of beds, ancient or disused, as part of the maintenance of the living areas, in which they would burn the herbs old and leave the ashes at the base to make new beds, according to the researchers.

Methodology of the finding

Through a series of microscopic techniques and spectroscopic, the researchers identified traces of ephemeral micromorfológicos of the former bed of grass between fine layers of the cave. These findings confirmed that the inhabitants of prehistoric Border Cave used sheaves of herbs to create beds on layers of ashes .

“The vegetable matter was not preserved in older deposits of the cave, but the subject silica containing a large majority of plants”, explains Esteban, researcher in archaeobotany and a specialist in phytoliths, a few remnants microscopic silica (opal) that reproduce the cellular structure of some plants.

These remains, by its composition inorganic, may be stored in the conditions in which the plant material is not charred is not preserved. For this reason, Border Cave has “the highest concentration of phytoliths documented in the archaeological record up to the time”, he concludes.

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