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Archaeological Discoveries: Haifa University Archeologist Uncovers World’s Oldest Bedding

(June 2004)

A team of botanists and archeologists led by a University of Haifa researcher have uncovered prehistoric floor coverings that constitute the oldest evidence of bedding for the sleeping and/or sitting area.

According to Dr. Dani Nadel, the Haifa archeologist in charge of the excavation, this is the first time that such bedding, along with a "modernly" organized hut floor, has been found.

Nadel and his team have been exploring Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old fishermen-hunters-gatherers camp on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret).The site was uncovered several years ago after the lake had receded drastically because of years of little rainfall in the region.

The oval-shaped "mat" that was found is made of grass. Found in the largest of the six brush huts uncovered, the most ancient in the world, the floor covering measures 4.5 meters long. It was located close to the hut wall, around a central hearth.

The mat was meticulously crafted from bundles of grass. The charred stems and leaves were covered with a thin, closely pressed layer of clay. According to Nadel, this was apparently intended to preserve the structure and order of the sheaves.

The Haifa University-led excavation at the site has also revealed the vegetarian diet of the camp inhabitants. Well-preserved seeds and even fruit have been discovered. Almost no other site dating to this period anywhere in the world has produced such finds.

According to Nadel, these finds are important for understanding the economic basis and types of seasonal food of humans at the height of the last Ice Age. Large quantities of charred material were found in the huts and near campfires at the site. Some 90,000 seeds and fruit from more than 100 species of trees and plants have been identified so far. Among the grains, wild wheat and barley stand out. These were among the first that humans cultivated at a much later period.

The finds, he continued, also testify to the fact that both food and incendiary material were brought to the camp from the Mediterranean groves, the lake shore, and the large salt flats that spread over the region.

Ohalo II, Nadel commented, is one of the best preserved sites of the period in the world, presenting one of the most detailed contributions to the reconstruction of everyday life in this period.

Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs