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Prehistoric Rock Artists Were Stoned, Archaeologists Finally Prove

Altered states of consciousness have been posited for the artists of antiquity and finally archaeologists have found the smoking datura in California – but stress it neither proves nor disproves shamanic ritual

Were artists centuries ago stoned to the gills when painting or engraving on cave walls? The possible use of intoxicants in the artistic process during prehistory has been fiercely debated in archaeological and anthropological circles, as is the meaning of the depictions. It has never been proved one way or the other.

There could be different motives behind – and meanings ascribed to – art created in southeast Asia 60,000 years ago, the glorious animal images of paleo-Western Europe and fairly recent cave drawings in the Americas. Some may whisper of secretive shamanistic practices and maybe others were made by bored teenagers with ocher to spare. We cannot say all were driven by the same urges, but now, for the first time, researchers have proven the consumption of an intoxicant in a place where rock art was created: Pinwheel Cave, California, which had been used during the late prehistoric period and through the colonial period.

The archaeologists couldn’t prove directly that the early Californians were buzzing when decorating the cave. But they could demonstrate that quids (wads of masticated plant matter like quids of chewing tobacco) rammed into crevices in the cave ceiling contained the hallucinogenic agent datura, among other things.

ryaner Posted by ryaner
25th November 2020ce

Comments (2)

This is reassuring. Howburn Digger Posted by Howburn Digger
26th November 2020ce
‘tis. :-) ryaner Posted by ryaner
26th November 2020ce
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