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Ancient Poisoners Discovered

Image: Francesco d'Errico and Lucinda Blackwell

Scientists studying the archaeological artifacts at the Border Cave in Africa discovered the earliest use of poison:
The researchers also dated a lump of beeswax mixed with toxic resin that was likely used to haft, or attach, stone points to the shafts of arrows or spears. The beeswax dates to about 35,000 years ago, making it the oldest known example of beeswax being used as a tool.

Finally, researchers dated a thin wooden stick scarred with perpendicular scratches. A chemical analysis revealed traces of ricinoleic acid, a natural poison found in castor beans. It's likely that the stick was an applicator used to put poison on an arrow or spearheads, the archaeologists reported. At about 20,000 years old, the applicator marks the first use of poison ever discovered.


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