Researchers discovered fossilized grass beds sitting atop layers of ash in Border Cave. The well-known cave sits on a cliff between eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Inside, toward the back of the cave, researchers found bundles of panicoid grass, which is found in warm temperate areas. The grass had long since fossilized, and the scientists dated it back to 200,000 years ago. Previously, the oldest known use of plant bedding by humans from the Stone Age dated to 77,000 years ago. Plant material is rarely well preserved in the fossil record, which makes understanding the use of comfortable plant-based bedding used by our ancestors difficult to track over time. The grass was arranged on layers of ash, which serves as a deterrent to pests because insects can’t crawl through its fine texture, it dehydrates them and it can also block their breathing and biting. The researchers also found remains from the camphor bush on top of the grass from the oldest bedding inside the cave. This plant is still used as a way to deter insects in rural areas of East Africa. The study published last week in the journal Science.
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