When did human beings start tipping their weapons with poison to hunt prey? This is a question at the forefront of recent archaeological research.
In southern Africa San (or Bushman) hunter-gatherer groups, such as the /Xam of the Western Cape and the Ju/wasi and Hei//om of Namibia, used poisoned arrows for hunting during the 19th and 20th centuries. The origins of this technology, though, may be far older than we thought.
Recently, traces of the poison ricin were found on a 24 000 year-old wooden poison applicator at Border Cave in South Africaâ€™s Lebombo mountains. If this identification is correct it would mean that people in southern Africa were among the first in the world to harness the potential of plant-based poisons.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.