One of the many advantages of living in today’s world is the simple pleasure of sleeping between soft sheets on a safe, comfortable mattress when it’s time for your nightly rest, but what if you put your head on a stone pillow at night instead of your beloved memory foam pillow? If you had lived long enough in the past, it would not have been a fantasy — this would have been your reality.
While the basics — a cushioned place to rest and keep warm throughout the night — have remained the same throughout history, the nuances of what constitutes a bed has changed quite a bit over the centuries. Here is a short history of beds through the ages.
The first beds:
The first known bed, made of woven weeds and herbs, was found in a 77,000-year-old cave in South Africa. “You’d think they’d be full of bugs, but people lined them up and covered themselves with a bunch of grass from the surrounding river, which served as an insect repellent,” says Fagan, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Men have been sleeping that way for thousands of years.”
Beds in ancient times:
Beds were put on the legs as societies became more advanced. Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt more than 3,300 years ago, slept on a raised bed lined with a gold leaf. His tomb had lavish beds decorated with sacred animal figures that symbolized his path to heaven. In the meantime, most ancient Egyptians were sleeping on mattresses on the ground. At Skara Brae in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, archaeologists find evidence of box beds made of stone slabs. “Ironically, there hasn’t been much change in the basic form of the bed for thousands of years,” Fagan says. “In Malta and Egypt, 3,000 B.C., people were already sleeping on elevated platforms with mattresses.”
During the 19th century, the bedrooms were more like those we enjoy today, mainly dedicated to sleep or sex. Although the four-poster beds were still very common, at the end of the 1800s the posts were generally much smaller than the headboards and the footboards. Mass processing of parts made the manufacture of beds easy and cheap and gradually led to the development of revival or reproduction beds from earlier times.
The 20th century was a busy time for bed innovation: The Murphy bed (or wall bed), the waterbed, the pocket sprung mattress, the invention of latex foam and memory foam, the flexible bed to name just a few.
While they were invented decades earlier, it was not until the 1950s that coil sprung mattresses grew in popularity to become by far the most common form of mattress. This led to the use of upholstered sofa bases or box spring platforms to carry the mattress, making a much more comfortable and supportive bed than was used in the past.
Today, when it comes to your mattress, you have more options than ever before. Pocket sprung, open coil, continuous coil, memory foam, gel foam, latex foam, and hybrids are just some of the styles of mattresses available. There is also a wide range of fillings – from synthetic fibers and foams to natural ones such as wool, cotton, silk, and hair.
Although sofa beds are still very common, there are many other types and styles available: bed frames made of wood or metal, upholstered ones made of leather or cloth – sleigh beds, bunk beds, adjustable beds, sofa beds, futons. Storage options can be given through drawers or by lift ottomans. The bed has come a long way since the grass-li started. But the basic idea remains the same: a convenient, safe, and warm place to sleep and recharge
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