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Talk: Thursday 21 January 2016, 7.30 pm, at the Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College.

Poisons, plants and Palaeo-lithic hunters by Valentina Borgia

Doors open 7.15 pm; meeting begins 7.30 pm

Borgia picture

  Monkshood Foxglove 1983

Hunters, from all over the world, poison their weapons with toxic substances derived from plants and occasionally from animals. This practice highlights the fact that weapons are often completely ineffective as hunting tools if their tips are not poisoned. Ancient peoples, such as the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, used plant-based poisons both for hunting animals and in war. The fact that toxic substances were available, and the benefits arising from their use on throwing weapons (e.g. safe distance of the hunter from the prey, quick death of large prey), suggest that this practice could have also been widespread among prehistoric hunters. Dr. Borgia will present an interdisciplinary research project focused on development of a method capable to detect poisons on archaeological spears/arrows with the aim of going back in time to the Palaeolithic in order to find out if poisonous substances were added to weapons as a way of further improving their hunting success.

Valentina Borgia is a Visiting Scholar at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge). Since doctoral studies, at the Univeristy of Siena (Italy) her research has focused on Palaeolithic hunting techniques and weapons.

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