Ancient human bedding used

Ancient human bedding used for pest control

JOHANNESBURG: Almost 80,000 years before humans began using chemical sprays to control insect pests, Africans were using mattresses made from bug-repelling plants to ensure a good night's sleep.

The finding, published in the journal Science Friday, derives from 77,000-year-old plant bedding found in a cave in South Africa's KwaZulu Natal province. The find is 50,000 years older than any previous prehistoric beds discovered.

The bed's insect-repelling capabilities suggest ancient humans were well aware of the chemical and medicinal properties of some plants.

"The leaves contained chemicals that repelled mosquitoes and other insects, so we know that they understood medicinal plants," said Lyn Wadley, an archaeology professor at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The bedding would have helped reduce insect-borne disease, although early humans would not have made any connection between mosquitoes and malaria, she told.