As Kat reported earlier in the week, a news story which got a bit of hype said that scientists had discovered evidence suggesting Stone Age man used herbal mixtures to get high. The article lead off with the following statement: “It has long been suspected that humans have an ancient history of drug use, but there has been a lack of proof to support the theory.”
Now this *is* news to me – because I recently published an updated version of Paul Devereux’s absolutely brilliant book on the history of shamanic drug use, The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia (Amazon US and Amazon UK). In the book, Paul mentions a fair bit of evidence of “an ancient history of drug use”, so this story seems a fair way off-base. Perhaps they meant to say “in the New World”, but even that doesn’t add up. From The Long Trip:
Archaeological evidence confirms the use of hallucinogens in the Americas from almost the Clovis time line. This is best indicated by the so-called Red Bean or Mescal Bean…about a dozen or so finds of the seeds have been uncovered in association with evidence of human occupation in caves and rock shelters in Trans-Pecos Texas and northern Mexico giving radiocarbon dates to 8440 B.C. … and also with finds of peyote dating to 5000 B.C.
…The use of ‘sacred’ mushrooms is one of the strongest Native American hallucinogenic traditions. The antiquity of their ritual use is strongly hinted at by curious ‘mushroom stones’, about three hundred of which have been found to date, from highland Guatemal, southern and western Mexcio, Honduras and El Salvador…Most are between twelve and fifteen inches in height, and date from the first millenium B.c. until about the time when the Spanish arrived. The chronicle of the Spanish priest Bernardo Sahagun in the late sixteenth century tells of the sacred mushrooms of the Aztecs. They called them teonanacatl, ‘flesh of the gods’.
…Peyote is one of the best known of Native American hallucinogens…The cactus has been recorded in stone as art in Mesoamerican tombs dating to 100 B.C. and is represented on a ceramic snuffing pipe from Monte Alban, Oaxaca, dating to 500 B.C.
…One of the hallucinogens to have had the longest use in the Americas is undoubtedly Trichocereus pachanoi, known in norther coastal Peru as San Pedro… This is indicated on an engraved stone panel in the wall of the circular sunken plaza of the Old Temple at Chavin de Huantar, which was built in the first millennium B.C. In this panel, a piece of the long, ribbed cactus is shown being grasped by a visionary human-animal being which has jaguar fangs – the jaguar is a motif strongly associated with South American shamanism. (see image to the left)
This is just a small sample from The Long Trip – Paul goes in to much more detail, and it truly is eye-opening to learn how most ancient cultures around the world venerated the psychedelic shamanic experience.