Valentina Borgia

University of Cambridge

Plants, poisons, and Paleolithic hunters

2017-2018: Fall

Dr. Valentina Borgia graduated with a degree in Archaeology from the University of Siena (Italy), where she earned her PhD in Prehistory with a thesis on the functional aspects of Palaeolithic stone projectile tools. Her scientific background encompasses a range of topics that span from lithic and bone tools technology to Palaeolithic population subsistence economy and prehistoric art; nevertheless, the study of hunting weapons has been the focal point of her research. Her approach to the complexity of prehistoric hunting strategies is multidisciplinary and combines typological and technological data with functional and residues analysis. Such data are also evaluated through the use of ethnographic comparison as well as experimental archaeology. She is currently involved in a research project focused on the invention and the diffusion of long-range hunting with throwing weapons. This project builds on a recently concluded Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (UK) and is aimed at investigating the first Anatomically Modern Humans stone and bone projectiles points from the perspectives of technology, use-wear, and residues analysis. The detection of poisonous substances on ancient arrows is part of this project. The aim of this fascinating research, which involves scholars engaged in researching Palaeolithic hunting strategies from various points of view (Archaeology, Paleobotany, Ethnography, Chemistry, Forensic Toxicology, Ethnopharmacy, etc.), is to understand when the first poison arrows were used, building a database with ethnographic and historic samples.