Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - PALEOHUNT (The reconstruction of hunting techniques as an instrument to understand the diffusion of populations and ideas in European Palaeolithic.)

The aims of the project PALEOHUNT (Marie Curie Mobility and Training Intra-European Fellowship - IEF) were threefold:
1. to reconstruct changes in hunting strategies during the European Upper Palaeolithic through the analysis of stones tools and bone points, and
2. to compare data from different archaeological sites in order to better understand the significance of the various regional facies, particularly in terms of the way in which they result from environmental or functional adaptations.
3. The ultimate aim is to understand the modalities and timing of the spread of new techniques and ideas whether related to physical movement of people or assimilation of ideas.
Three methodological approaches have been adopted during the proposed research project:
1) Ethnographic survey, in order to fully understand hunting techniques and mobility among prehistoric hunters.
2) Techno-functional analysis of lithic and bone industries. This project aimed to analyse hunting tools (stone, bone and antler) used by prehistoric populations from a functional point of view.
3) Residue Analysis. Residues of worked material (vegetal or animal) can become trapped on the surface of the tools. Identification of organic residues and their chemical composition is carried out mostly by means of chromatographic techniques and molecular spectroscopy.
The same multidisciplinary methodological approach has been used to compare data coming from different archaeological contexts. The main phase of the project involved the comparative analysis of the hunters equipment of the principal Moravian Gravettian sites (Dolnì Vestonice and Pavlov, Czech Republic) with that of he Italian site of Grotta Paglicci, to determine whether tools share morphological and functional characteristics and how they are linked to hunting in different natural environments.

The project started on 1st September 2013, with the preparation of an article on the 104 bone and antler tools found in the Italian cave of Paglicci (Southern Italy). Aspects related to hunting have been especially deepened (WP2).
Results: The analysis of the bone and antler tools of Paglicci Cave have permitted some important remarks:
1) Antler points (made with red deer antler) are only in the cultural layer 17 (Ancient Epigravettian). In the same layer the shouldered stone points (pointes à cran) appear in the sequence of Paglicci and the faunal remains are composed for 70% of Ibex.
2) In the faunal remains red deer is scarce and waste products for the working of antler are absent.
3) It's necessary to investigate the possibility of a commerce/exchange of antler tools, especially towards the other side of the Adriatic sea.
This research has been presented in the UISPP International Conference of Burgos, Spain (1-7 September 2017) with a paper titled:
Borgia V,. Boschin F., Ronchitelli A.,
“Exploiting hard animal material in the Upper Palaeolithic sequence of Paglicci cave (southern Italy).
The article has been submitted and accepted on the journal Quaternary International.

As for the study of the Gravettian material of Pavlov, Czech Republic (WP3), four different stays (April 2014, August 2014, February 2015, June 2015) have permitted to the Fellow to collect informations and pictures on:
1) the small backed points of Pavlov, Dolni Vestonice and Milovice I.
2) the denticulated backed tools of Pavlov.
3) the ivory points of Pavlov.
Results: the materials have been studied and compared with the Italian Gravettian, allowing a number of very important considerations about the Palaeolithic hunting techniques.
The collaboration with an expert of mammoth tusk, Dr. Bibiana Hromadova of the University of Moscow, have been pivotal for the technological and functional work on ivory spear points.
This research has been presented to numerous invited lectures (University of Newcastle, University of Oxford, University of Liège, Belgium) and to the conference "Out of Italy" of Cambridge, organized by the Fellow. Two articles are now ready to be submitted:
1) Borgia V., Hunting high and low: reconstruct hunting strategies during the European Upper Palaeolithic through the analysis of stone tools and bone points.
2) Borgia V., Hromadova B., The use of ivory spearheads for hunting in Pavlov (Czech Republic).

Since the first phase of the project the Fellow focused on the best methods to carry on the analysis of residues (WP4) on lithic and bone projectile points (Raman Spectroscopy, Gas-Chromatography, Liquid Gas Chromatography, Proteomics).
Dr Huw Barton of the University of Leicester, expert of macro- residues, showed to the Fellow the methodology of extraction and study of starches.
Afterwards the technicians of the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge addressed the Fellow to Dr. Michelle Carlin, a forensic chemist of the Northumbria University of Newcastle.
With this important expert the Fellow planned a series of experimentations on prehistoric projectiles residues, with a particular attention to poisons.
Results: a project for the detecting of poison on ancient hunting tools has been created.
The methodology includes:
1- The creation of a database (chemical composition – by mass spectrometry and hyphenated techniques - and starches) on the best-known toxic plants in order to compare the standards with the archaeological samples.
2- The use of ethnographic samples to assess the efficiency of the database in relation to the main research question on whether it is possible to detect plant alkaloids or cardenolides thousands of years after they were applied to the hunting weapons, taking into consideration the implications of the findings in relation to sample preparation/interpretation of results.
A first set of ethnographic samples was collected at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Cambridge (UK), the Pitts Rivers Museum of Oxford (UK) and the Museo Etnografico Pigorini of Rome (Italy).
This research was presented in the UISPP International Conference of Burgos, Spain (1-7 September 2014):
Borgia V., Carlin M., Crezzini J.
“A poisoned chalice: investigating the presence of poisons on Palaeolithic arrows”.
A poster was presented at the UK Archaeological Science conference at Durham, UK (8-11 April 2015)
A paper detailing this methodology as been submitted and accepted on the review Quaternary International:
Borgia V., Carlin M., Crezzini J., Poison, plants and Palaeolithic hunters. An analytical method to investigate the presence of plant poison on archaeological artefacts.

On 22-23 May 2015 the Fellow organised a conference at the University of Cambridge, funded by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research: "Out of Italy. Advanced studies on the Italian Palaeolithic".
The initiative, open to all interested researchers and student, aimed to circulate the more recent accomplishments of early prehistoric research in Italy and foster the development of future projects and collaborations. The original idea was that over the last ten years, many Italian archaeologists have left their country to work abroad. Italy lost in this way very brilliant minds, yet the mobility of young Italian researchers created new competences and brought to significant results.
The conference brought together scholars working in Italy, UK, France, Germany and focusing on different areas of the Italian Peninsula. The publication of the proceedings will take place with an edited volume: Palaeolithic Italy (Sidestone Press, Leiden), which will circulate new data and novel techniques relevant for assessing the evolution of Palaeolithic adaptations in Italy.

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