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The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants: A worldwide overview



Modern sophisticated archeometric instruments are increasingly capable of detecting the presence of psychoactive plant sources in archeological contexts, testifying the antiquity of humanity’s search for altered states of consciousness. The purpose of this article is to provide a general picture of these findings, covering the main psychoactive plant sources of the world, and identifying the most ancient dates so far evidenced by archeology. This review is based on the archeological literature identifying the presence of psychoactive plant sources, relying on original research documents. The research produced two main results: (a) a systematization of the types of archeological evidence that testify the relationship between Homo sapiens and these psychoactive sources, subdivided into direct evidence (i.e., material findings, chemical, and genetic) and indirect evidence (i.e., anthropophysical, iconographic, literary, and paraphernalia); and (b) producing a list of the earliest known dates of the relationship of H. sapiens with the main psychoactive plant sources. There appears to be a general diffusion of the use of plant drugs from at least the Neolithic period (for the Old World) and the pre-Formative period (for the Americas). These dates should not to be understood as the first use of these materials, instead they refer to the oldest dates currently determined by either direct or indirect archeological evidence. Several of these dates are likely to be modified back in time by future excavations and finds.
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with
psychoactive plants: A worldwide overview
Ethnobotanist, Independent Researcher, Bologna, Italy
(Received: January 7, 2019; accepted: February 21, 2019)
Modern sophisticated archeometric instruments are increasingly capable of detecting the presence of psychoactive
plant sources in archeological contexts, testifying the antiquity of humanitys search for altered states of conscious-
ness. The purpose of this article is to provide a general picture of these ndings, covering the main psychoactive plant
sources of the world, and identifying the most ancient dates so far evidenced by archeology. This review is based on
the archeological literature identifying the presence of psychoactive plant sources, relying on original research
documents. The research produced two main results: (a) a systematization of the types of archeological evidence that
testify the relationship between Homo sapiens and these psychoactive sources, subdivided into direct evidence
(i.e., material ndings, chemical, and genetic) and indirect evidence (i.e., anthropophysical, iconographic, literary,
and paraphernalia); and (b) producing a list of the earliest known dates of the relationship of H. sapiens with the main
psychoactive plant sources. There appears to be a general diffusion of the use of plant drugs from at least the Neolithic
period (for the Old World) and the pre-Formative period (for the Americas). These dates should not to be understood
as the rst use of these materials, instead they refer to the oldest dates currently determined by either direct or indirect
archeological evidence. Several of these dates are likely to be modied back in time by future excavations and nds.
Keywords: archeology, archeobotany, psychoactive plants, oldest nd
The hypothesis that the human search for altered states of
consciousness through the intake of psychoactive plant
sources has very ancient roots is repeatedly conrmed by
archeological nds. The present review focuses on the most
ancient dates so far identied by archeological research on
the relationship of humans with the main psychoactive plant
sources listed in Table 1. Before this, some methodologi-
cal and systematical aspects are discussed.
The initial problem that arises whenever remains of a
plant (whether psychoactive or not) are found within an
archeological context concerns whether or not they were
introduced by humans. For this reason, a distinction
between anthropic and environmental plant remains is
usually taken into consideration, assigning them two differ-
ent terms; however, there is no unanimous agreement
among scholars about the nomenclature. Some scholars call
the environmental nds paleobotanical, and the anthropic
nds archeobotanical, starting from the assumption that
archeology deals with everything related to humans and the
anthropic environment (Day, 2013). Other scholars consider
the terms archeobotanical and paleoethnobotanical to be
synonymous, both associated with human activity, whereas
yet other scholars consider them distinct, indicating, respec-
tively, the environmental and the anthropic ndings. Still
others exclusively employ the term archeoethnobotanical to
indicate the agricultural activity of ancient humans (for a
discussion of these terms, see A-Magid, 2004). More
generally, the term paleoethnobotany seems to be used
mainly in New World archeology, whereas archeobotany
is commonly used in Old World archeology, with mostly
interchangeable meanings (VanDerwaker et al., 2016,
p. 126). In Mediterranean archeology, the distinction
between archeobotanical and archeothnobotanical nds is
frequently adopted, here giving emphasis to the prex
ethno- to denote the causal relationship with anthropic
activities (Marguerie, 1992, p. 46).
Once the anthropic causality of the plant nd has been
established, a second type of problem concerns the identi-
cation of the purpose of use of the plant, especially when it
concerns remains of psychoactive plants. These plants have
often been used, and continue to be used, not only to achieve
altered states of consciousness, but also for medicinal,
edible, manufacturing or utilitarian purposes, and it is not
always possible to determine the precise purpose of use in
the archeological contexts.
The archeological evidence attesting utilization of
psychoactive plants can be classied into the two general
groups of direct evidence and indirect evidence.
The direct evidence concerns:
Material nds: these occur when macroscopic or micro-
scopic (pollen, phytoliths, lipids, etc.) botanical remains
* Corresponding address: Giorgio Samorini; Ethnobotanist,
Independent Researcher, Via del Porto 42, 40122 Bologna, Italy;
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License,
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© 2019 The Author(s)
ORIGINAL ARTICLE Journal of Psychedelic Studies
DOI: 10.1556/2054.2019.008
are revealed in archeological excavations associated with
anthropic contexts;
Chemical evidence: this concerns the identication of the
active ingredients of plants in human organic tissues
(hair, bones, etc.) or in material nds such as ceramics,
mortars, and pestles. In addition to the active ingredients,
their metabolites may also be found in organic tissues.
This is the case with benzoylecgonine, a cocaine
metabolite, or cocaethylene, a metabolite that the human
body creates only in a context of simultaneous cocaine
and alcohol intake; both compounds have been detected
in the hair of South American mummies (Wilson et al.,
2013). Chemical evidence also comprises the presence of
specic marker compounds on the internal surface of
liquid containers, such as tartaric acid, malvidin, and
syringic acid attesting the original presence of grape wine
(Barnard, Dooley, Areshian, Gasparyan, & Faull, 2010),
or oxalic acid for barley beer (Michel, McGovern, &
Badler, 1993); and
Genetic evidence: this is based on genetic studies of the
plant populations of different geographical areas, with
the aim of identifying the original areas of their anthropic
diffusion; this technique has been used, for example, in
the identication of the area of origin of cocoa tree
cultivation (Matamayor et al., 2002), and in the ascer-
tainment of a multilocation origin of grapevine domesti-
cation (Arroyo-García et al., 2006).
The indirect evidence concerns:
Anthropophysical evidence: this is based on the identi-
cation of specic transformations or malformations in the
human remains that are formed as a result of the assiduous
use of certain psychoactive sources. This is the case of
certain mandibular and dental malformations among
South American coca-leaf consumers (Indriati & Buikstra,
2001), or the blackish coloring in the teeth of betel
masticators (Oxhenam, Cornelia, Cuon, & Thuy, 2002);
Paraphernalia: this refers to the instruments used for
consumption of psychoactive sources, and are
Table 1. Oldest evidence of anthropic psychoactive plant use
Old World
Beer (from Hordeum spp.)
11000 BC (Israel)
Hemp (Cannabis)
8200 BC (Japan)
Betel (Areca catechu)
7000 BC (Thailand)
Henbane (Hyoscyamus spp.)
6000 BC (Egypt)
Waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.)
6000 BC (Egypt)
Psilocybian mushrooms
6000 BC (Sahara)
Wine (from Vitis vinifera)
5800 BC (Georgia)
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
5600 BC (Italy)
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
4500 BC (Romania)
4200 BC (Spain)
Harmel (Peganum harmala)
4000 BC (Caucasus and Egypt)
Tea (Camellia sinensis)
3500 BC (Zhejiang, China)
Lettuce (Lactuca serriola)
2500 BC (Egypt)
Cider (from Pyrus sp.)
2500 BC (Spain)
Ephedra spp.
2000 BC (China)
Boophone disticha
2000 BC (South Africa)
Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)
1700 BC (Andorra)
Fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria)
1500 BC (Asia)
Mandrake (Mandragora spp.)
1400 BC (Egypt)
Ergot (Claviceps spp.)
300 BC (Spain)
Kava (Piper methysticum)
850 AD (Oceania)
New World
San Pedro (Trichocereus spp.)
8600 BC (Peru)
Mescalbean (Sophora secundiora)
8440 BC (Texas)
Coca (Erythroxylum spp.)
6000 BC (Peru)
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)
3200 BC (Texas)
Cebil (Anadenanthera spp.)
2100 BC (Argentina)
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao)
1900 BC (Mexico)
Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.)
1500 BC (North America)
Psilocybian mushrooms and/or y-agaric
1000 BC (Guatemala)
Chicha (from Zea maydis)
800 BC (Bolivia)
Mate (Ilex paraguariensis)
650 BC (Argentina)
Jimsonweed (D. stramonium) 300 AD (Chile)
Guayusa (Ilex guayusa)
375 AD (Bolivia)
Ololiuhqui (Turbina corymbosa)
600 AD (Mexico)
Ipomoea spp.
800 AD (Texas)
Black drink (Ilex vomitoria)
1050 AD (IL, USA)
Direct evidence.
Indirect evidence.
2|Journal of Psychedelic Studies
categorized as paraphernalia used in processing (pestles,
mortars, presses, vats, etc.), conservation (dolia, etc.),
transport (amphorae, etc.), and intake (pipes, snuff-trays,
glasses, etc.);
Iconographic evidence: this concerns images of psycho-
active plants, or of contexts of their use, as reported in
ancient art. This type of documentation is frequently
uncertain, given that the iconography of ancient plants
and fungi is not generally reported with an abundance of
morphological details that can safely allow the identi-
cation of the botanical species; and
Literary evidence: this concerns the terminology associ-
ated with use of psychoactive sources that can be identi-
ed in the ancient hieroglyphic, and cuneiform writings.
Regarding this type of documentation, and similarly to
iconographic sources, there are numerous uncertainties.
Some plant species that represent direct or indirect
sources of psychoactives did not exist in nature, and were
created by Homo sapiens through diligent cultivation and
selection starting from wild species. The best known cases
are opium poppy, wine vine, coca, and kava (Samorini,
In Table 1, the data have been divided in Old and New
World sources, and have been presented in chronological
order, indicating for each plant source the country with the
oldest nds so far registered. The oldest date, whether for
direct or indirect evidence, is presented, without reference to
the more recent dates for the other form of evidence or more
recent nds in other regions.
It should be recognized that these archeological nds do
not always denitively establish that they reect use as
entheogens. Nonetheless, most of these evidence can be
considered as indicative of entheogenic uses in the past
because their discovery is generally in association with
grave goods, items that were deliberately placed with
deceased persons, or ceremonial sites that have apparent
religious functions. The placement of plant material as
grave goods, as is the case with burial itself, attests to a
supernatural orientation and attitude. Similar arguments
apply to nds within ceremonial structures; the default
hypothesis for psychoactive plants in ceremonial structures
is that they were involved in producing entheogenic
experiences. These relationships justify treating the broad
range of data involving deliberate interment of psychoac-
tive plant substances as indicating that they were related
to supernatural issues and consequently entheogenic
The following sections of the paper provide a succinct
description of the oldest archeological data for each plant
source (Table 1), grouped by geographical area (Old
and New World) and following a mixed layout between
kind and geographical distribution of the psychoactive
Alcohol sources
When it comes to the origin of the human relationship with
alcohol, it is worth noting to mention the drunken monkey
hypothesis,proposed by Dudley (2004) and based on the
observation that primates have been in contact with this drug
since time immemorial, as it occurs naturally in fermenting
fruits, meaning this association long precedes the origin of
the human species. Following this, it can also be argued that
alcophilia among humans is likely rooted deep in the
evolutionary history of primates; the scent of alcohol indi-
cates sources of desirable ripened fruit.
Throughout the world, people have learned to make
alcoholic fermented beverages from the most disparate plant
sources. In Eurasia, the best known of these products is
grape wine, while ancient Mexican populations learned to
get an alcoholic beverage pulque from the agaves sap.
Another very ancient alcoholic product is mead, obtained by
combining honey with water. With numerous types of fruit,
even those found in the wild, it is possible to process
fermented alcoholic brews, which are designated as ciders.
Wine, mead, and ciders are all leavened fermented
beverages. Humans acquired a second way of producing
alcoholic brews using cereals, and these are classied as
malted fermented beverages, giving rise to those
drinks known as beers, and which were historically and
technologically preceded by saliva-fermented drinks (Lima
Gonçalves, 1990).
The widespread hypothesis that cereal beers originated
subsequent to the achievement of cereal cultivation is
increasingly rejected by scholars, who are moving toward
a model of opposite technological evolution, that is, the
acquisition of the production techniques of alcoholic drinks
was the driving force of cereal production, which was only
later adopted and perfected for the use of cereals as a food
source. This would have occurred both in the context of the
Eurasian beers (Joffe et al., 1998) and in the case of the
Amerindian chicha made from corn (Smalley & Blake,
The oldest cereal beer appears to have been dated to
13,000 years ago, and its processing was established at
Mount Carmel (Israel), in the Natuan site of the Raqefet
Cave. The analysis of the starch granules found on the
internal surfaces of some mortars revealed morphological
malformations typical of those formed during the stages of
brewing (germination, crushing, and enzymatic hydrolysis;
Liu et al., 2018). The production of another ancient beer,
dated to the 7th millennium BC, has been identied in China
(Jiahu, Henan); the drink consisted of rice, honey, and a fruit
(McGovern et al., 2004).
Regarding Mesopotamia, chemical analyses have
outlined the preparation of barley beer at the Godin Tepe
site (Zagros Mountains, Iran), at a level corresponding to the
Late Uruk (35002900 BC; Michel et al., 1993). This direct
conrmation of the existence of an ancient Mesopotamian
beer would agree with the extensive evidence of beer in both
administrative and mythological texts of proto-cuneiform
writings, dated to 32003000 BC. The cuneiform texts show
the production of at least nine different types of beer
(Damerow, 2012, p. 4).
In Egypt, the pre-Dynastic brewery of Hierakonpolis
was able to produce 1,100 L of beer a day. In addition,
Journal of Psychedelic Studies |3
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants
the excavations at Abydos, Mahasna, Badari, Ballas, and
other pre-Dynastic sites have outlined elements that show the
preparation of beer was a widespread practice in the phases
of Naqada IIII of the 4th millennium BC (Geller, 1993).
For Europe, the presence of calcium oxalate and barley
phytoliths has been evidenced in Neolithic ceramics and
millstones dated to 38003500 BC found in the Can
Sadurní cave (Barcelona, Spain; Blasco, Edo, & Villalba,
2008). In Scotland, in the Machrie Moors stone circles site
(Isle of Arran), on pottery fragments of which the oldest
were dated to 3500 ±70 BC, organic material was found
with traces of hazelnuts, cereals, and honey; a fact that
suggests a kind of beer was prepared (Dineley & Dineley,
2000, p. 138). In the Aegean area, the earliest references to
the production of a cereal beer, dated to 2200 BC, come
from the Minoan site of Myrtos (Crete; Tzedakis &
Martlew, 1999, pp. 159161).
The vine from which modern grape wines are obtained V.
vinifera L. subsp. vinifera was created by selection from a
wild vine species, recognized as V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris
(Vitaceae;Renfrew, 1995, p. 255). In different geographical
areas, wines obtained from wild vines preceded those
obtained from cultivated vines, a fact that provides evidence
of how viticulture was not a prerequisite for the production
of wine (Valamoti, Mangafa, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki, &
Malamidou, 2007, p. 58).
The oldest evidence of production of wild grape wine is
currently dated around 5800 BC, found at the Godachrili
Goa site (Georgia; Kvavadze, Jalabadze, & Shakulashvili,
2010). Another ancient piece of evidence, dated to
54005000 BC, is located in a Lake Urmia basin site (Iran);
a millennium later, the wild vine was cultivated, and the
domesticated form appeared a little later still (McGovern,
Glusker, Exner, & Voigt, 1996).
Recent studies suggest a multilocality of genetic selec-
tion in the process of vine domestication. Over 70% of the
cultivars of the Iberian Peninsula show chlorotypes that are
compatible with wild vine populations originating in the
western Mediterranean region (Arroyo-García et al., 2006).
A secondary vine domestication center was identied in
Sardinia (Italy), following the discovery of vine seeds in the
Sa Osa site, dated to the Bronze Age (13501150 BC;
Ucchesu et al., 2015). Even more recently, the genetic
analysis of vine seeds found in Neolithic horizons of the
Serratura Cave (Salerno) seems to conrm a domestication
of the wild vine in southern Italy, independent of the
Caucasian one (Gismondi et al., 2016).
In the Anatolian region, the oldest evidence dates back to
35003100 BC, located in the Warka site (the ancient Uruk,
Irak), consisting of the residue in a ceramic container in
which the presence of tartaric acid was conrmed (Badler,
McGovern, & Glusker, 1996).
In Greece, the most ancient evidence for wine-making
is located in the Neolithic site of Dikili Tash/Philippoi,
Macedonia, where on the oor of a house numerous grape
seeds and pressed grape skins have been found, dated to
44604000 BC, and recognized as belonging to the wild
form of the vine. Specic chemical investigation evidenced
that these grapes had been pressed to obtain the juice for the
preparation of wine (Garnier & Valamoti, 2016).
In Egypt, the grapevine was not a native species, and the
rst wine was imported from the Levant, as evidenced by
the discovery of 700 jars in the Tomb U-j of the king
Scorpio I of Dynasty 0, dated to the Naqada IIIA2 period,
ca. 3150 BC. The analysis of the residue in three of these
jars showed the presence of tartaric acid and a resin,
probably terebinth (McGovern, Mirzoian, & Hall, 2009).
Viticulture originated during the First and Second Dynas-
ties, as evidenced by the nding of wine jars made from Nile
alluvial clay and grape remains in the Abydos and Saqqara
cemeteries (McGovern, 2001, p. 402).
The oldest archeological evidence concerning mead is
associated with Neolithic huts excavated beneath the Azután
megalith (Toledo, Spain) and dated to 42203970 BC. The
analysis of a ceramic sherd evidenced the presence of altered
pollens of heather, cistus, and oak, in addition to cerotic
acid, beeswax esters, glucose, and diatoms; a combination
of elements that made it possible to identify the residue as
honey diluted in water (Juan-Stresserras & Matamala,
2005). The analysis of a clay pot belonging to the necropolis
of Valle de las Higueras, in the same Toledo region and with
a chronology close to the previous one, also suggests the
identication of a residue of mead (Bueno Ramírez, Barroso
Bermejo, & Balbín Behrmann, 2005). In connection with
this practice, it should be noted that the oldest documenta-
tion attesting the collection of honey from bees was also
found in Spain, based on depictions in prehistoric paintings
from the Mesolithic period (Dams & Dams, 1977).
In a ceramic sherd from the Los Dolientes I site, located in
the Ambrona Valley (Soria, Spain), belonging to the Bell
Beaker culture of the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, a
residue that would seem to correspond to a wild pear cider
has been detected (Rojo-Guerra, Garrido-Pena, & García-
Martínez de Lagrán, 2008, p. 98).
Kava (P. methysticum)
Kava is the name of both the plant and the psychoactive
drink made from its roots, whose use is widespread in New
Guinea and in large areas of the Pacic Ocean. The active
ingredients are the kavalactones.
There is a general agreement among scholars that the kava
plant P. methysticum G. Forst, Piperaceae was created
from a wild species, Piper wichmannii C. DC., and an
interesting conrmation of this botanical genesis is found
in some traditional myths about the origin of kava (used
today), which refer to a kava of the ancestors(Samorini,
2016b, pp. 152153). Kava was once taken by chewing its
roots and swallowing their juice, and this method is probably
the oldest one, as well as being one that left no archeological
traces. At a later stage, the pre-masticated boluses of the roots
were extracted from the mouth and placed in containers with
the addition of water. Another technique, which is the basis
4|Journal of Psychedelic Studies
of todays preparation of the kava drink, involves crushing
the roots using mortars and pestles.
The archeological evidence concerning kava is scarce.
Samples of the domesticated species, dated to before 850
AD, have been found in some archeological sites in Remote
Oceania, including the Vaitootia site (Huahine, Society
Islands; Sinoto, 1983, p. 59). Other indications, with more
recent dates, have been obtained through the identication
of kavalactones in archeological nds (Hocart, Fankhauser,
& Buckle, 1993) and the observation in skeletons of a
degeneration of the mandibular joint attributable to assidu-
ous chewing of kava roots (Visser, 1994).
It has been suggested that a set of stone mortars and
pestles endowed with characteristic ornamentations, of
which the oldest are dated to 3400 BC, and which are
widespread in New Guinea, were used for the preparation
of the ancestorskava,because of a signicant geographi-
cal correspondence between the spread of these nds and the
geographical range of the wild species of kava (Ambrose,
Betel (A. catechu)
Betel consists of three ingredients: Piper betle L. leaf
(Piperaceae), pieces of the nut of A. catechu L. (Arecaceae),
and slaked lime. These three products are joined together in
a bolus that is kept in the mouth, where the active principles
of the two plant sources react with slaked lime in order to be
absorbed through the buccal mucosa, synergistically
producing a stimulating effect.
The use of betel is widespread in three continents: Asia,
Oceania, and Africa. It spread to the latter of these during a
relatively late period, perhaps around the 7th century AD,
following the migration of Austronesian-speaking people
that brought this habit with them (Zumbroich, 20072008,
pp. 120121).
There are several kinds of archeological evidence con-
cerning the areca nut, but there are still no signicant data
specically for P. betle. The most ancient nds, dated to the
8th millennium BC, are areca fragments excavated at the
Spirit Cave (Thailand), which was inhabited by people
belonging to the Hoabinhian Culture (Gorman, 1970). How-
ever, in Indochina, the tree is not present in the wild form, and
botanical and linguistic data favor an origin of areca nut use in
Malaysia (Rooney, 1993, p. 14); therefore, the origin of its
use as a psychoactive is likely to precede this date.
A second type of evidence is based on the observation in
skeletons of teeth with the typical coloration caused by the
combined mastication of areca nut with slaked lime. The
oldest nd of this type is the skeleton of a man from the site
of Duyong Cave (Palawan Island, Philippines), dating to
26002800 BC. Some shells that served as lime containers
have been found next to this burial; a datum that appears to
xanante quem date for the addition of slaked lime to areca
(Fox, 1970).
Tea (C. sinensis)
The tea shrub C. sinensis (L.) Kuntze (Theaceae)is
native to China. For some time, it was believed that tea
cultivations place of origin was to be found in the southern
Chinese region of Yunnan (Berlie, 1995), but the oldest
archeological data referring to this plant are instead found on
the east coast of China. During archeological excavations of
a Hemudu Culture site a Neolithic population with
matriarchal social connotations in the Yueyao county,
along the Zhejiang coastal region, a dozen tea roots came to
light in an excellent state of conservation, arranged in what
appears to have been the original cultivation position.
Radiocarbon analyses dated the roots to 35263366 BC,
and chemical analyses have revealed the presence of
theanine, an amino acid typically synthesized in the roots
of the tea plant, which is then transferred to its aerial parts
(Nakamura, 2009).
Ephedra (Ephedra spp.)
Several Eurasian species of Ephedra (Ephedraceae) possess
stimulating properties, due to the presence of the alkaloid
Many authors continue to report the case of the burial
found in the Shanidar cave (northern Iraq) relating to a
Neanderthal man dating back to 60,000 years ago, as the
earliest documentation of the human relationship with
ephedra. Around the skeleton, an unusual concentration of
pollens of different plants was identied, including
Ephedra altissima Desf.; a fact that led to the hypothesis
that a bunch of owers had been deposited on the tomb
(Leroi-Gourhan, 1975). However, in 1999, Sommer inter-
preted this accumulation of pollens as the result of the
activity of a small rodent, the Persian gerbil, which is
known to accumulate large quantities of seeds and owers
in its burrows. During the excavations of the Shanidar cave,
many burrows of this animal were encountered, and the
polynimetric spectrum of these burrows was similar to that
found around the burial studied earlier (Sommer, 1999).
Veried its dubious validity, the nding of Shanidar has not
been included in Table 1.
The oldest archeological ndings are associated with the
mummies of Ürümchi, in the Tarim basin (Sinkiang, China),
dating back to 2000 BC. Ephedra twigs have been found
above the inhumations or sewn between the fabrics that
wrap the mummies. Most of these mummies belong to the
physical Caucasoid group, a fact that conrms a European
origin of this ancient population of Central Asia (Barber,
1999). In 36 graves of the Gumugou cemetery (Taklamakan
desert, Tarim), dated to 1800 BC, small packets of Ephedra
were found, invariably placed on the right side of the chest
of each body (Xie, Yang, Wang, & Wang, 2013).
Indicating a European use of ephedra as a psychoactive, a
concentration of ephedra pollen was identied at the bottom
of some amphorae dated between the 3rd and the 2nd century
BC and found in the pre-Roman village of Puntal dels Llops
(Valencia, Spain). The amphorae came to light in the main
residential structure of the town, where cult activities were
carried out, suggesting a ritual use of this plant for its
psychoactive properties (Dupré Ollivier, 1988,p.78).
Hemp (Cannabis spp.)
Questions surrounding the origins of the human relationship
with Cannabis continue to provoke much discord between
Journal of Psychedelic Studies |5
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants
scholars and for various reasons: from the still contested
problem of speciation within the genus Cannabis (whether it
is one, two, or three species); to the difculty of distinguish-
ing between paleobotanical nds of Cannabis and Humulus
pollen (as both genera belong to the same family of the
Cannabaceae); to the difculty of distinguishing the arche-
ological nds of hemp and linen fabrics. Another problem
concerns the ascertaining of the use of cannabis, whether for
psychoactive, medicinal, or manufacturing purposes.
A fact that now appears certain, as testied by numerous
paleobotanical nds, is the presence of Cannabis in Europe
from preglacial times, perhaps since the late Miocene.
Another matter subject to modern revision concerns the
origin of hemp cultivation, which would not have occurred
during the Neolithic periods, as previously asserted by many
researchers, but only starting from the Copper Age, then
more widely in the Bronze Age (McPartland, Guy, &
Hegman, 2018), while the Iron Ages Scythians would have
introduced hemp cultivation to the European Celtic, Slavic,
and Finno-Ugric cultures. Moreover, the hypothesis of a
multilocation of the origin of the human relationship with
this plant appears to be more and more plausible, there being
at least one present in Europe and another in East Asia
(Long, Wagner, Demske, Leipe, & Tarasov, 2017).
Despite the hypothesized late, post-Neolithic, advent of
hemp cultivation, people began to interact with this plant in
earlier times. The oldest evidence attesting this report is
recognized by several authors in Japan, at the Okinoshima
(Boso) site of the Jomon culture, where plant macrofossils,
including fruits of C. sativa, have been identied adhering to
fragments of pottery with a date of 8200 BC (Kudo et al.,
2009). Although external contamination has been suspected
for these archeological nds (Okazaki et al., 2011), the most
recent revisions of hemp-related archeobotanical data favor
the validity of this Japanese anthropic evidence (Long et al.,
2017;McPartland & Hegman, 2017), and for this reason it
has been included in Table 1.
Regarding the oldest human relationship with Cannabis
in Europe, achenes of this plant have come to light at the
Frumu¸sica site, Oneçti region (Romania), belonging to the
Cucuteni B Neolithic culture, dated to the 76th millennium
BC (Matasaˇ, 1946, p. 39). An anthropic nding of achenes
at the Thayngen-Weier site in Switzerland belongs to the
same chronological horizon (Willerding, 1970).
Harmel (P. harmala)
The seeds of this Eurasian and North African plant
(P. harmala L., Zygophyllaceae) contain the same compounds
found in the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi)harmine
and harmaline but in higher concentrations. Its identication
with haoma, the drink of immortality of the Zoroastrian
religion, has been suggested (Flattery & Schwartz, 1989).
The most ancient archeological nds date from the 5th
millennium BC and come from Neolithic sites of the
Caucasus (Merlin, 2003, p. 301). Harmal seeds have also
come to light in a pre-Dynastic Egyptian site (Maadi, Cairo)
dating back to 37003500 BC (Zeist & De Roller, 1993).
Regarding the iconographic aspects, it has been hypoth-
esized that the representation of this plant can be seen
among the ndings of the ancient Mesopotamian Jiroft
culture (Kerman, Iran), dated to the 3rd millennium BC.
In the decorations of some chlorite vessels encountered in
funerary contexts, a plant is frequently represented which
Amigues (2009) identied as P. harmala.
Waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.)
Several species of water lilies (Nymphaea spp., Nymphaea-
ceae) are endowed with psychoactive compounds found in
the petals and rhizomes. These psychoactive properties,
which are due to the presence of aporphine alkaloids, were
discovered by two great ancient cultures the Egyptian and
In ancient Egypt, the earliest remains of water lilies were
found in the Neolithic Nabta Playa site, dating back to 6000
BC (Hather, 1995). The exact kind of causality of human
interaction with this plant whether for food or for psycho-
active purposes could not be determined, but since the
psychoactive effects occur with the simple ingestion of the
petals, this property will likely have been discovered
concurrently with its use as a source of food. We are more
certain of the use of the blue water lily Nymphaea nouchali
var. caerulea (Savigny) Verdc. as a psychoactive plant
during the Pharaonic periods, as expressed in iconography
and hieroglyphic texts (Harer, 1985). Flowers of this plant
have been found in abundance in the garlands and among
the bandages of mummies of numerous pharaohs and court
dignitaries (Germer, 1985, pp. 3739).
Lettuce (Lactuca spp.)
The species of wild lettuce of which the most common in
the Mediterranean basin are L. serriola L. and Lactuca
virosa L. (Compositae)are endowed with psychoactive
properties, specically in the white latex that exudes pro-
fusely from the stem when it is cut. The fresh latex is toxic,
but when it is dried it transforms into lactucarium,a
narcotic-sedative medicine used until the 20th century in
Europe as a substitute for opium. At higher doses, lactucar-
ium yields more stimulating and visionary experiences, and
at even higher doses it becomes toxic (Harlan, 1986). It has
been speculated that the common lettuce of the vegetable
garden L. sativa L. was created by selection from L.
serriola by the ancient Egyptians (Lindquist, 1960).
Wild lettuce was widely depicted in ancient Egyptian art
since Dynasty V, which began around 2500 BC (Keimer,
1924, p. 6); it became the plant attribute of the ithyphallic
God Min (Defossez, 1985), and refers to the L. serriola
species. In Egyptological studies, another species, L. virosa,
is often indicated but this seems to be a case of mistaken
identication, as this last species was not present in the
Egyptian ora (Samorini, 20032004, p. 79).
As far as direct evidence is concerned, few remains are
known; seeds of undetermined species of Lactuca have
been found in Egyptian excavations, but are younger in
age (Germer, 1985, p. 185). In the 7th century BC,
sanctuary of the Goddess Hera in Samo (Greece),
L. serriola seeds have come to light next to P. somniferum
seeds, and the context leads to the hypothesis that both
plants were used as psychoactive sources (Kucˇan, 1995,
pp. 3133).
6|Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Opium poppy (P. somniferum)
The opium poppy did not exist in nature and was created by
human cultivation and selection of a wild species (Merlin,
1984, pp. 5458). The most likely wild candidate is
P. setigerum (Papaveraceae), and today most taxonomists
recognize the existence of only one species, P. somniferum
L., differentiated into the two subspecies somniferum Kader-
eit (the cultivated form) and setigerum (DC.) Corb. (the wild
form; Hammer & Fritchs, 1977).
The opium poppy was considered to have originated in
the Eastern regions of the Eurasian territories, but current
scholars tend to put its origins during the 6th millennium BC
in a region of the western Mediterranean.
The oldest opium poppy remains thus far have come
from this region, including in Italy, from the pile-dwelling
site of La Marmotta (Rome), dating back to 5600 BC. In this
Neolithic site, intermediate forms between the wild and the
cultivated poppy species have been found, which would
testify in favor of this area of central Italy as the place of
origin for the domestication of the opium poppy (Rottoli,
Large quantities of seeds and opium poppy capsules have
come to light in the Neolithic sites of the Alpine Arc, dated
to 48003200 BC. For example, more than 120,000 plant
elements belonging to the P. somniferum cultivated subspe-
cies came to light at the site of Schicht 3 (Switzerland),
dated to 3200 BC (Jacomet, 2006).
In the Cueva de los Murcielagos (C´ordoba, Spain),
poppy remains were found dated to 5360 BC (González
Urquijo et al., 2000). Other remains have come to light in
several sites of the Linear Band Ceramic Neolithic culture,
widespread in Central Europe, whose most ancient ndings
date back to 5200 BC (Schultze-Motel, 1979).
Tropane-containing solanaceous plants
Tropane Solanaceae, those producing the hallucinogenic
tropane alkaloids (atropine, scopolamine, hyoscyamine,
etc.), is widespread throughout the world. The archeological
data for the Mandragora,Datura,Hyoscyamus, and Atropa
genera are reported in this study.
Mandrake ( Mandragora spp.)
Mandrake is strangely absent in the Eurasian archeological
nds. The oldest record is located in Egypt. Mandrake did
not belong to the Egyptian ora, and at the beginnings of
Dynasty XVIII, it was imported from the regions of Pales-
tine or Syria, and was cultivated in the gardens of the
Pharaonic nobility (Bosse-Grifths, 1983). Mandragora
fruits have been identied in the oral garlands of the
Tutankhamun mummy, and images of the plant are present
in the paintings of Dynasty XVIII, dating back to 1400 BC
(Germer, 1985). A recent phylogenetic analysis inside the
genus Mandragora has evidenced a denitive distinction
between the two species Mandragora autumnalis and Man-
dragora ofcinarum, and a possible ancient human assisted
migration of this latter from Israel to Persia, giving form to
the Asian species Mandragora turcomanica (Volis, Fogel,
Tu, Sun, & Zaretsky, 2018).
Jimsonweed ( Datura spp.)
This genus consists of about a dozen species spread on
different continents. Although there has always been a general
propensity of scholars to assert a long-standing presence of
some species in Eurasia; Symon and Haegi (1991) proposed
that no species of Datura was present in the Old World before
Columbus, and this last thesis continues to meet agreement
among scholars. One of the proofs given by Symon and Haegi
is based on the consideration that only in the Americas, ants
collect Datura seeds, evidencing an American origin of the
relationship of ants with these plants. Indeed, observations of
Datura seeds collected by ants are common in the European
countries (Samorini, 2017c). Furthermore, some archeological
ndings, together with modern iconographic and ancient
written sources studies, appear to contradict the hypothesis
of a pre-Columbian the lack of presence of Daturas outside the
Americas prior to modern contact (post 1500 AD).
And of D. stramonium L. dated more than 3,000 years
before Columbus appears to come from a Bronze Age site
located at Prats (Pyrenees, Andorra). In a terracotta pot,
eight seeds of stramonium and remains of the fruit that
contained them were found. The radiocarbon dating was
found to be 1700 BC (˜nez, Burjachs i Casas, Juan i
Tresserras, & Mestres, 20012002). The remains of D.
stramonium also came to light in an ancient Bronze Age
site (Pécs) in Hungary (Guerra Doce, 2006a, p. 294).
A species of Datura may be depicted in the headgear of
Shivas statuary from the 9th century AD, and both the
iconography and the description of its effects would lead to a
Datura metel L. identication (Geeta & Gharaibeh, 2007).
Furthermore, several studies suggest evidence for the pres-
ence of Eurasian daturas in ancient literature (Scarborough,
2012;Sikl´os, 1994;Touwaide, 1998). All this leads to the
pre-Columbian presence of D. stramonium in Europe and,
with less certainty, D. metel in Asia.
Henbane ( Hyoscyamus spp.)
Henbane species are widespread in Eurasia and North Africa.
The most ancient ndings belong to Egypt, where in the
Farafra oasis a site of the Middle Neolithic dating back to
the 76th millennium BC some seeds of an indeterminate
species of Hyoscyamus have come to light (Fahmy, 2001).
Since ancient times, the practice of adding henbane seeds
to beer to strengthen its effects was widespread in Europe.
The oldest evidence is dated to 2340 BC and concerns a
pottery offering deposited in a sepulchral cave of Calvari
dAmposta (Tarragona, Spain), and in which the presence of
beer and hyoscyamine, one of the alkaloids present in
henbane, was determined (Guerra Doce, 2006b). In more
recent times, at the Celtic site of Hochdorf (Stuttgart,
Germany), dated to 600400 BC, remains of a brewing
of malt have been discovered, and among the remains of
barley, 15 seeds of black henbane (H. niger L.) were present
(Stika, 1996).
Deadly nightshade (A. belladonna)
For deadly nightshade (A. belladonna L.), only a single
documented piece of evidence is known. However, it is
Journal of Psychedelic Studies |7
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants
signicant both for its antiquity and for the context of the
discovery. In the Măgura Gorgana site, located along the
Romanian side of the Danube and dated to 4500 BC, a
village consisting of a hundred houses and a necropolis with
a hundred graves, belonging to the Neolithic Gumelnita
culture, have been excavated. Thousands of nightshade
seeds have been found in several parts of the housing area;
anding that attests an intensive use of this plant, probably
for religious purposes (Toders, Hansen, Reingruber, &
Wunderlich, 2009).
The archeology of psychoactive mushrooms tells us very
little as far as direct evidence is concerned, due to the rapid
deterioration of fungal tissue. Those prehistoric people
integrated mushrooms into their diet would seem to have
been recently conrmed by the discovery of microscopic
fragments of a superior mushroom perhaps a Boletaceae
species in the dental calculus of a woman who lived
18,700 years ago, found in the Cave El Mir´on, in northern
Spain (Power, Salazar-García, Straus, Gonzalez Morales, &
Henry, 2015). Two main pharmacological classes of hallu-
cinogenic mushrooms are recognized: the small group of
isoxazole mushrooms, mainly pertaining to the genus
Amanita (Amanitaceae), and the larger group of psilocybin
mushrooms, mainly of the Psilocybe,Panaeolus, and
Copelandia genera (Samorini, 2001).
Psilocybian mushrooms
The oldest archeological documentation attesting to the use
of psychoactive mushrooms appears to have been identied
in a geographical area where today it is difcult to nd
mushrooms: the Sahara Desert. These depictions of mush-
rooms are present among the prehistoric paintings belonging
to the Round Headspictorial phase, dated between 6000
and 4500 BC in the Tassili nAjjer (Algeria) and in other
mountainous areas of the Sahara. The compelling evidence
for an entheogenic interpretation of the paintings is in the
human gures holding mushrooms in their hands, from
which dotted lines extend to the head. This detail would
seem to indicate that the artist was intending to convey a
statement regarding the psychoactive effects that the fungus
has on the human mind. Other large anthropomorphic
gures, probably of divine nature, are entirely surrounded
by mushrooms (Samorini, 1992). Another ancient icono-
graphic documentation concerning psilocybian mushrooms
has been proposed for a rock-painting in the Selva Pascuala
site (Spain), dated to around 4000 BC (Akers, Ruiz, Piper, &
Ruck, 2011).
Fly-agaric (A. muscaria)
On the rocks of central and northern Asia, depictions of
anthropomorphs characterized by heads in the shape of a
mushroom hat, or bearing a showy mushroom-shaped object
above the head, are engraved. The scholars call these gures
mushroom-men,and the areas where their presence is
most frequent are in Tuva, along the Yenisei, Altai, Siberia,
and the Kazakhstan rivers. They are dated to 15001000 BC
(Molodin & Cheremisin, 1999). Typically depicted in a
position with their legs bent, as if they were dancing or
jumping, in many cases the mushroom-menare endowed
with a round protuberance at the height of the pelvis. This
object would correspond to the medicine bagof leather
containing the mukhomor (the Russian term for y-agaric),
which is kept by the shamans, an object that was actually
reported in the ethnographic descriptions of modern
Siberian shamans (Dikov, 1971, p. 118).
A second iconographic scheme is observed in the pre-
historic art of Siberia and concerns human gures who have
a real mushroom on their heads. One of the most studied
cases concerns the rock art of the Pegtymel river, the work
of ancient Chukchi populations of the local Bronze Age,
with an average dating of 1500 BC (Dikov, 1971).
Ergot ( Claviceps spp.)
Ergot (Claviceps spp., Clavicipitaceae) is a parasitic lower
fungus of many wild grasses and cereals. Its sclerotia are a
crucible of alkaloids, partly toxic, and partly psychoactive,
many endowed with important medicinal properties. It was
from the ergot alkaloids, in 1938, that the Swiss chemist
Albert Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide.
Given its potential as a psychoactive source, ergot has been
suggested as the key ingredient of kykeon, the visionary
drink of the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece
(Wasson, Hofmann, & Ruck, 1978), as well as the cause
of the disease called St. Anthonys Fire (ergot poisoning).
As a parasite of grasses, ergot has been present in the
anthropic environment ever since humans began to be
interested in wild grasses, placing them in cultivation and
transforming them by selection into cereals barley, rye,
wheat, etc. The ingestion of ergot sclerotia, which remain
mixed among cereal grains, causes a state known as ergot-
ism, which can occur with different symptoms, depending
on the proportions of the most toxic or most psychoactive
alkaloids (Bové, 1970).
Archeological nds have highlighted the presence of
ergot in anthropic sites starting from at least 18,000 years
ago in the Middle East and 5,400 years ago in Europe
(Aaronson, 1989), although it is not possible to determine
whether they are anthropic (intentional) or environmental
(accidental) presences, and for this reason, these data are not
included in Table 1.
A surprising fact regards the discovery of fragments of
Claviceps purpurea (Fr.) Tul. sclerotia in a temple of the
4th2nd century BC dedicated to the two Eleusinian God-
desses, Demeter and Persephone, excavated at the Mas
Castellar site (Girona, Spain). Ergot sclerotia fragments
were found inside a vase along with remains of beer and
yeast, and within the dental calculus in a jaw of a 25-year-
old man, providing evidence of their being chewed
(Juan-Stresserras, 2002). This nding seems to strongly
support the hypothesis of ergot as an ingredient of the
Eleusinian kykeon.
Boophone disticha
In Southern Africa, the hallucinogenic bulb of B. disticha
(L.f.) herb (Amaryllidaceae) is employed by different ethnic
8|Journal of Psychedelic Studies
groups as a visionary, divinatory, and initiatory agent
(Sobiecki, 2002, p. 3). Archeological data attest to a human
relationship with this plant of at least 4,000 years. Regarding
the material ndings, a mummied body found in a rock
shelter of Kouga Mountains, in the South African Province
of Eastern Cape, dated to 2,000 years ago, was covered with
a thick layer of B. disticha leaves (Steyn, Binneman, &
Loots, 2007). Archeologists tend to interpret the presence of
these leaves solely on the basis of their antiseptic properties
(Binneman, 1998), but it appears reductive to ignore the vast
traditional use of this plant not only as a medicinal product,
but also as a psychoactive. Remains of this plant have come
to light in other subrock shelters: in the Kleinpoort Shelter
and in the Havens cave of Valle Cambria, both located in the
Cape Province and dating back respectively to about 2,000
years ago and 700800 AD. In the Melkhoutboom cave of
the Eastern Cape, ndings of the plant have been dated to
900 BC (Binneman, 1998;Lombard, Wadley, & Deacon,
2012). Boophone has been identied among the plants
painted in the prehistoric rock art of Lesotho, in the Thaba
Bosio National Monument, and among the rock paintings of
the Zastron area in the Free State, with dates starting
from the 2nd millennium BC (Mitchell & Hudson, 2004,
pp. 4951).
Alcohol sources
Chicha (from Z. maydis)
Chicha is mainly prepared from corn, and the archeological
data similarly support a probable precedence of the use of
corn as a source of alcoholic beverage compared to its use as
a food source (Jennings, 2005). The rst data of corn
cultivation come from 4200 BC in the Mexico region, while
its role in the diet as food became a priority only after 1000
BC (Piperno, Ranere, & Hansell, 2000). Consequently, we
can hypothetically place this archaic date as the oldest for
the production of chichi, although the oldest direct evidence
to date identied is at Lake Titicaca (Bolivia), dating to
800250 BC (Logan, Hastorf, & Pearsall, 2012). Later,
more certain date has been chosen for Table 1.
Mescalbean (S. secundiora)
The natives of the Great Plains of North America held
elaborate rites that included ingesting the seeds of the
leguminous plant S. secundiora (Ortega) DC., known
as mescalbean or frijol rojo. This cult has long since
disappeared and was replaced by the peyote cult
(Campbell, 1958).
Archeological data from Texas and New Mexico have
outlined a relationship of mescalbean with people from at
least the middle of the 9th millennium BC, with the oldest
date from 8440 BC (Adovasio & Fry, 1976). The most
signicant nd came to light in a Cave of Horseshoe Ranch,
located near Comstock, where a medicine bagwas found,
lled with various objects used for magical and ritual
purposes, along with mescalbean seeds and seeds of
Ungnadia speciosa Endl. (Sapindaceae)(Merrill, 1977).
The latter species could possess psychoactive properties,
although the biochemical data indicate that it would be
toxic. In the archeological nds, it is invariably found
associated with mescalbean, and in the most ancient con-
texts, the majority of the seeds are Ungnadia, while in the
following periods, Sophora prevails. In addition, in Mexico,
in caves of the Cuatro Cienegas Basin (Coahuila), mescal-
beans were found, again together with Ungnadia seeds. The
oldest dates reach 7500 BC (Taylor, 1956).
Peyote (L. williamsii)
Archeological data have highlighted the antiquity of the
human relationship with this hallucinogenic cactus L.
williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M. Coult., Cactaceae
of at least 5,700 years. Peyote samples were found in several
prehistoric sites in Texas and Northern Mexico. The most
studied case concerns the buttonsof peyote that came to
light in the Shumla Cave 5 of the Rio Grande, located at the
conuence with the Pecos river. Chemical analyses per-
formed on two of these buttons have shown that they still
contained mescaline in a concentration of 2% (El-Sheedi,
De Smet, Beck, Possnert, & Bruhn, 2005). After a more
careful analysis, it has been determined that these plant
ndings, previously classied as peyote buttons, were in
reality aggregates of ground cactus along with other
unidentied plants, which were given a similar rounded
and attened shape and size to those of real peyote buttons.
Chronological analyses performed on three of these
conglomerates have enabled a dating to the Eagle Nest
subperiod of the Middle Archaic Period of the Texan
tradition, with absolute ages of around 3200 BC (Terry,
Steelman, Guilderson, Dering, & Rowe, 2005).
The visions achieved by the ingestion of peyote may
have inuenced the Texas and California prehistoric cave
paintings, which may depict themes related to the symbolic
universe of the peyote. This art is dated between 2200 and
750 BC (Boyd & Dering, 1996).
Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.)
The oldest archeological evidences concerning tobacco
dates back to 1500 BC, located in North America sites and
concern the species N. quadrivalvis Push. (Solanaceae). The
use of this species was later abandoned with the arrival of
Nicotiana rustica L. from South America (Pauketat et al.,
As direct evidence, organic tissue analysis of South
American mummies shows the presence of nicotine and its
metabolite cotinine (Brown, 2012, p. 114). Nicotine was
also found in the hair of 62% of the sample of mummies
analyzed that had come from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile)
and were dated between 100 BC and 1450 AD (Echeverría
& Niemeyer, 2013). Cartmell, Springeld, and Weems
(2001) studied the presence of nicotine and cotinine on a
sample of 144 South American mummies of different
archeological origins, with 97% positive results. In a couple
of children younger than 2 years, a concentration of these
compounds greater than in children aged 314 years were
found. This was explained by the transfer of nicotine via
Journal of Psychedelic Studies |9
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants
transplacental passage and via breast milk. In Chile, at the
Las Morena 1 site and dated after 500 BC, one hundred
seeds of the species Nicotiana corymbosa Remy have been
identied (Planella, Collao-Alvarado, Niemeyer, & Belmar,
Cocoa (T. cacao)
The cocoa drink, obtained from the fruits of the tree T. cacao
L. (Malvaceae), was prepared with different techniques. The
most primitive one comprised alcoholic fermented drinks
made from the fruit pulp, with alcohol content that reached
5%7%. Only later did attention focus on the large seeds,
which contain the active ingredients theobromine, caffeine,
and theophylline (Powis, Valdez, Hester, Hurst, & Tarka,
Regarding the place of origin of the cocoa tree and the
genesis of its cultivation and domestication, contrasting
theses have been presented, apparently solved only recently
by specic genetic studies. For some decades, the most
followed thesis postulated two cocoa subspecies that devel-
oped separately in North and South America, and that the
wild plants found in the Lacandonian forest of southern
Mexico could have been the ancestors of the domesticated
cocoa as we know it today (Cuatrecasas, 1964). However,
genetic studies (Matamayor et al., 2002) have shown that the
trees of the Lacandonian forest are not wild, but represent
made-wild forms of ancient Mayan crops, and have
conrmed an Amazonian and Orinoco basin origin of the
cocoa plant, this being the only geographic area where wild
trees are present (Barrau, 1979).
Cocoa seeds have come to light at various Mayan sites.
One of the oldest, 400 BC250 AD, is the Cuello site, in
Belize (Hammond & Miksicek, 1981). Much older dates
have been provided by chemical analyses of pottery resi-
dues, aimed at identifying caffeine alkaloids. In the Paso de
la Amada site, in the southern Mexican region of the Pacic
Coast, theobromine was found in a clay pot dated from 1900
to 1500 BC and belonging to the pre-Olmec phase Mokaya
Barra (Powis et al., 2008). Other ndings concern ceramics
from San Lorenzo (Vera Cruz), of which the oldest are dated
to 1800 BC, and which were found to be positive for
theobromine (Powis, Cyphers, Gaikwad, Grivetti, &
Cheong, 2011). Having veried that the cocoa tree is native
to South America and was brought to Mexico by man, the
original date of the human relationship with this plant is
consequently older than 1900 BC.
Archeological nds concerning the psychoactive species of
Convolvulaceae Ipomoea,Turbina,Argyreia, etc. are
quite rare, and frequently the exact species is not specied in
the Ipomoea ndings; this deciency does not allow
identication of the presence of a psychoactive species,
since only one group of Ipomoea taxa produces psychoac-
tive seeds, whose active ingredients are lysergic acid
Among the North America ndings, Ipomoea seeds were
found in two wells of the Spoonbill site (Texas) belonging to
the Ancient Caddo period (8001300 AD). The context of
the nding suggested these seeds had been prepared for
some purpose, possibly for their psychoactive properties
(Crane, 1982, p. 86). Depictions of the dondiego, the
ololiuhqui of the ancient Aztecs T. corymbosa (L.)
Raf. have been identied in the frescoes of Teotihuacan
(Mexico), dating back to the 7th or 8th century AD (Furst,
Waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.)
The ancient Maya employed Nymphaea ampla (Salisb.) DC.
as a psychoactive (Emboden, 1983). It is extensively repre-
sented in iconography since the dawn of this Mesoamerican
culture, starting from at least 750 BC (McDonald & Stross,
2012). Recently, the identication of the Maya Cosmic
Tree, widely diffused in the Mayan art, has been revised.
Generally identied with the kakop tree (Ceiba pentandra)
or with the corn (Z. maydis), McDonald (2016) suggested it
has to be identied with N. ampla.
As far as the Americas are concerned, the mushroom stones
of the Mayan culture must be mentioned, the oldest of which
date back to 1000 BC (Mayer, 1977). It is not clear if these
efgies refer specically to the psilocybian mushrooms and/
or to y-agaric, and the natural presence and ethnographic
and/or linguistic data of their use in those regions have been
evidenced (Wasson, 1980).
One of the most sensational discoveries occurred at the
Kaminaljuyu site (Guatemala): nine small mushroom-
shaped stones were found inside a hiding place, found
together with nine metates (millstones) and nine mano
(pestles). It would seem that each stone mushroom was
associated with a pair of metate and mano. This curious set
of mushroom stones belongs to the Verbena Phase of the
Mayan culture and is dated to around 1000 BC. The number
nine has been associated with the nine night divinities of the
Maya pantheon (Borhegyi, 1961).
In South America, to date, we know only one case of
iconographic evidence: the so-called Dariens pectorals
(Torres & Repke, 2006). Diffused mainly in Colombia,
Panama, and Costa Rica, the classic form of these gold
artifacts shows an anthropomorphic structure with zoomor-
phic features, endowed with wing-like side ornaments, and
bearing on their top two hemispherical protuberances. The
most ancient nds date back to the 1st century BC (Falchetti,
2008). Several authors have interpreted the hemispherical
protuberances, almost always supported by a stem, as
depictions of hallucinogenic mushrooms (Schultes, 1979).
Coca (Erythroxylum spp.)
Two species of coca are used in South America: Erythrox-
ylum coca Lam. (with the two varieties coca and ipadu)
and Erythroxylum novogranatense (D. Morris) Hieron
(with the two varieties novogranatense and truxillense)
(Erythroxylaceae). It has been hypothesized that E. coca
var. coca is the wild species, from which the other varieties
originated through cultivation and selection (Plowman,
1986, p. 13).
10 |Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Archeological nds attesting to the use of coca leaves
among the South American populations are numerous and
of various types, including the analysis of biological tissues
aimed at identifying cocaine and its metabolites mainly
benzoylecgonine (Cartmell et al., 1994) and cocaethylene
(Wilson et al., 2013), the latter being produced in the context
of concomitant intake of alcohol and cocaine, and the
observation of particular bone and dental pathologies
associated with the assiduous consumption of coca leaves
in combination with alkaline sources (Indriati & Buikstra,
The oldest direct evidence came to light in an anthropic
context, recorded in the Nanchoc Valley in northern Peru,
where coca leaves have been found on the oors of a house,
and dated to the end of the Las Pircas phase 60005800 BC.
In the same excavation context, spheroidal balls of com-
pressed slaked lime were found, which can be associated
with the consumption of coca leaves, and this should be
considered a conrmation that since that period coca was
taken together with slaked lime (Dillehay, Rossen, Ungent,
& Karathanasis, 2010).
As for iconographic evidence, images of coqueros
individuals who highlight the swelling induced by the
introduction of coca bole on a cheek are present in several
pre-Inca artistic productions, including Nasca, Moche,
Quimbaya; the oldest ones appear among the artifacts of
the Valdivia Culture, in Ecuador, with a date of around 2000
BC (Lathrap, Collier, & Chandra, 1975).
Jimsonweed (Datura spp.)
Concerning the American archeological ndings of Datura
spp., D. stramonium charred seeds were found in vases and
funeral urns of the El Mercurio site, belonging to the Llolleo
culture of central Chile, dating back to 3001000 AD.
The datura seeds were found in association with childrens
graves (Planella, Pe˜na, Falabella, & McRostie, 20052006).
In addition, in some pipes from the same Llolleo culture,
ndings of D. stramonium have been identied (Planella
et al., 2018). These data are the most ancient in the Americas.
The rst evidences of Datura in the North American
archeology date back to the beginnings of the II millennium
AD, and are localized in the Pueblo areas of New Mexico and
Arizona (Yarnell, 1959).
Hallucinogenic snuffs (Anadenanthera spp.)
The practice of inhaling psychoactive snuff powders was
widespread in Central and South America and diffused to
the Caribbean where it played an important role in ritual
activities. In addition to tobacco, hallucinogenic powders
are today used in various regions, mainly obtained from the
seeds of Anadenanthera spp., large trees of the Legumino-
sae family, or from the bark of the species of Virola, trees of
the Myristicaceae family. The powders obtained from these
trees contain hallucinogenic tryptamines.
Despite the widespread practice of inhaling the powders
of Anadenanthera seeds, the most ancient nding, dated to
2130 BC, concerns the practice of smoking these seeds, and
is located in the Inca Cueva site, in the Puna de Jujuy, in the
northernmost part of Argentina. Leguminous remains have
been recognized in two pipes, including Anadenanthera
colubrina seeds, and chemical analyses have shown the
presence of tryptamines (Fernández Distel, 1980, p. 65).
For the practice of inhalation, the most ancient ndings
concern paraphernalia of use, that is, snuff-trays and inha-
lation tubes, dated to 1200 BC and located at the Huaca
Prieta site, along the central Peruvian coast. In the valley of
Asia, located in the same geographic area, an even greater
number of inhalation implements of the same period was
found, including a pumpkin containing a pulverized mixture
of black seeds, most probably Anadenanthera seeds (cebil)
(Torres & Repke, 2006, p. 32).
Although the archeological record is mainly spread along
the Andes and neighboring regions, there is a general
tendency to see the origins of the inhalation practice in the
northern Amazon basin. The hypothesis of a cultural move-
ment from the lowlands to the highlands seems corroborated
by various archeological, ethnographic, and linguistic
evidence, and reects the more general view of ancient
tropical forest cultures existing prior to those of the central
Andes. A decisive conrmation appears from the adoption
of the jaguar a feline of the tropical lowlands as an
animal widely represented in Andean symbology and
iconography by the Chavín, Tiwanaku, and other ancient
pre-Columbian cultures of the highlands, following
religious-shamanic inuences of populations of the Amazon
forests (Zerries, 1985). The fact that the most ancient nds
were found in the highlands and not in the Amazon basin
could be explained by the more rapid decomposition in the
forest of snuff paraphernalia, since even today they are
mostly made of plant material.
In many cases, the geographic range of snuff parapher-
nalia does not match the diffusion of the plant source, in
particular cebil A. colubrina (Vell.) Brenan var. cebil
(Griseb) Altschul as in the case of San Pedro de Atacama
in Chile and more generally the Andean area; this highlights
a distribution system, of a commercial or exchange type,
that supplied regions far from the area of the drugs presence
(Zelada & Capriles, 2004). The iconographic evidence is
found in depictions of Anadenanthera trees and pods that
have been identied in ceramics of different cultures of the
1st millennium AD, including Tiwanaku (Berenguer, 2001),
Moche (Furst, 1974, pp. 8485), Wari (Knobloch, 2000),
and Aguada (Marconetto, 2015).
Ilex spp.
Some species of the genus Ilex (Aquifoliaceae) produce
caffeine alkaloids; the most powerful are found in the
Americas. The archeological data for guayusa, mate, and
black drink are reported in the following.
Guayusa (I. guayusa Loes)
In the Ni˜
no Korin site (La Paz, Bolivia), the tomb of a
probable medicineman has been excavated, with a rich set
of instruments and plants related to his profession, including
some bunches of guayusa leaves. The inhumation belongs to
the cultural phase Classic Tiahuanaco (Wassén, 1972). The
analysis of Guayusa leaves, dated to 375 AD, highlighted
caffeine as still present (Holmstedt & Lindgren, 1972).
Journal of Psychedelic Studies |11
The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants
Mate ( I. paraguariensis A.St.-Hil)
In a pipe of the La Puntilla site (Catamarca, Argentina),
dated to the Lower Formative Period (650 BC500 AD),
microscopic fragments of I. paraguariensis were identied,
together with Nicotiana and E. coca. The intake by aspira-
tion of mate is reported in modern ethnographic literature,
for example, among the Tehuelches of Patagonia
(Capparelli, Pochettino, Andreoni, & Iturriza, 2006).
Black drink ( I. vomitoria Aiton)
This species was used by the North American southeast
natives for the preparation of a drink called Black Drink
utilized ritually as a stimulant and emetic. Its leaves contain
low amounts of caffeine and theobromine, but not theophyl-
line. In the pre-Hispanic Cahokia site (IL, USA), whose phase
of the greatest development is dated between 1050 and 1250
AD, biochemical analyses of the residues of some glasses
have highlighted the presence of caffeine and theobromine in
a ratio corresponding to that present in I. vomitoria.Cahokia
is more than 500 km away from the natural range of this plant,
and this has led to the hypothesis of its long-distance trade or
local cultivation (Crown et al., 2012).
San Pedro (Trichocereus spp.)
The term San Pedro refers to two mescaline-bearing cacti,
which have suffered a difcult taxonomic remodelling in
recent decades, and currently some authors places them both
as belonging to the species Trichocereus macrogonus
(Salm-Dyck) Riccob. (Cactaceae), one as subsp. pachanoi,
called by the natives San Pedro legitimate,and the
other as subsp. peruvianus, known as San Pedro cimarr´on,
where cimarr´on means wild(Lodé, 2015). The arche-
ological record has shown a human relationship with San
Pedro, including both pachanoi and peruvianus, which is at
least 10,000 years old, a fact that, for now, makes San Pedro
the most ancient psychoactive from an American source.
Regarding material remains, the oldest nd was located
in the Cueva del Guitarrero, in the Peruvian department of
Ancash. In this cave, inhabited continuously since 8600 BC,
a high concentration of pollen of T. peruvianus has been
detected from the oldest phase of human occupation, as well
as some fragments of cacti, which would testify the inten-
tional introduction of this plant inside the cave (Lynch,
1980, p. 101). The dates of these ndings have recently been
reconrmed by Lynch (2013), who however did not under-
stand the ethnobotanical importance, since he did not asso-
ciate T. peruvianus to San Pedro, and it was only the study
by Feldman Gracia (2006) that led to a more complete
evaluation of this discovery.
Regarding iconographic documentation, the most ancient
nds would appear to be those of the Cupisnique culture,
where the cactus is associated with felines or snakes. These
ndings seem to belong to the phase of the Middle Forma-
tive, dated between 900 and 400 BC (Sharon, 2001). The
most famous iconographic nd, the so-called San Pedro-
bearing stele,in Chavín de Huantar, has been dated to 750
BC. The cactus is depicted in other lithic reliefs of the same
site (Feldman Gracia, 2006, p. 33), including a fragment of
pottery, dated to 500 BC (Mesía, 2014, pp. 328329).
Depictions of San Pedro also appear in the exhibits of the
Salinar, Nazca, Moche, Lambayeque, Chimú, Wari, Inca
(Sharon, 2001), and perhaps Tiwanaku (Mulvany de
Pe˜naloza, 1994) cultures.
Table 1lists the earliest known dates of the relationship of
H. sapiens with the main psychoactive plant sources. These
dates are not to be understood as the most ancient ones; they
refer to those determined thus far by archeological evidence,
direct or indirect, and several of these are likely to be
modied back in time with future nds.
For some psychoactive sources, there would appear
evident a discrepancy between the oldest dates of arche-
ological nds and the probably much older dates concerning
the origin of their human use. This is the case, for example,
of psychoactive mushrooms, in particular y-agaric, a
widespread showy mushroom for which it is plausible to
suspect a very ancient relationship with H. sapiens if not
with preceding Homo species; eventually, what was initially
an accidental or incidential use subsequently became an
intentional relationship.
Despite these limitations due to archeological gaps,
Table 1indicates with a degree of certainty a general plant
drug use already attested during the Neolithic (for the Old
World, around 11000 BC) and the pre-Formative (for the
New World, around 8000 BC) periods. It is my opinion that,
with the current state of our knowledge, and given the
difculties of identifying the purpose and kind of use of
psychoactive sources for many archeological nds, it is not
possible to reach further certain conclusions.
Several psychoactive sources continue to be silentin
the archeological excavations. This may be due to a lack of
archeological ndings, but in some cases, the reason may lie
in their recent discovery as could have been the case for
ayahuasca (Samorini, 2016a). Specically, to date, it has not
been possible to identify any credible archeological evi-
dence for the following psychoactive plants: coffee (Coffea
arabica), kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), pituri (Duboisia
hopwoodii), betel (P. betle), kat (Catha edulis), iboga
(Tabernanthe iboga), Salvia divinorum, ayahuasca (B.
caapi), Psychotria viridis,Virola spp., jurema (Mimosa
spp.), and guarana (Paullinia cupana).
Acknowledgements: There were no sources of funding for
this study.
Conict of interest: The author declares no conict of
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18 |Journal of Psychedelic Studies
... En los siguientes párrafos se describirá la situación actual del uso clínico de alucinógenos y los contextos en los que estos se administran. La discusión se centrará en el uso de psilocibina y de ayahuasca, dos productos de origen natural con una conocida y longeva tradición de uso ceremonial por parte de pueblos indígenas (Miller et al., 2019;Santiago et al., 2016;Samorini, 2019aSamorini, , 2019bVan Court et al., 2022). ...
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There is currently a renewed academic interest in hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin or ayahuasca. The clinical use of hallucinogens has been accompanied by psychotherapeutic models that address their subjective effects. The clinical approach developed in Brazil is particularly interesting, since it does not have psychotherapeutic orientations or techniques of directionality of the subjective experience. This text discusses the complex crossroads that crystallize in Brazil and that occur between the use of ayahuasca in clinical settings, its use by Indigenous communities and religions, the relationships between these communities and the general Brazilian population, and the hegemonic therapeutic models built around hallucinogens.
... La evidencia arqueológica más antigua, que sugiere el uso ritual de los hongos sagrados proviene de las tierras mayas. Las esculturas en piedra con forma de hongo encontradas en Kaminaljuyú, Guatemala, tienen una antigüedad de 1000 a. C. (De Borhegyi, 1961;Samorini, 2019). Estas esculturas son un ejemplo del giro ontológico mencionado, pues hacen visible la personificación de entidades sagradas ya sea de forma antropomorfa o zoomorfa. ...
Esta investigación ha examinado la evidencia histórica y arqueológica sobre los usos rituales de los hongos sagrados en Mesoamérica, específicamente en las antiguas culturas maya, mixteca y mexica, con base en el análisis de fuentes primarias como: códices, esculturas y manuscritos coloniales para lograr un mejor entendimiento de la cosmovisión de los pueblos originarios. Se trata de un estudio interdisciplinario que ha requerido la implementación de diversas metodologías de investigación como: la iconografía, la historiografía, la etnografía y la hermenéutica. Esta investigación se ha fundamentado en una interpretación filosófica de los rasgos culturales que permiten concebir a los hongos como entidades sagradas personificadas, es decir, como seres con voluntad con los que es posible comunicarse, o bien como un medio para contactar con las divinidades; pero también como una fuente de conocimiento y sabiduría. Uno de los objetivos específicos ha sido tomar en consideración el pluralismo ontológico que subyace en las filosofías indígenas para comprender mejor el conocimiento de la naturaleza y el simbolismo asociado a los rituales con hongos psicoactivos. Este artículo forma parte de una investigación más amplia cuyo objetivo es analizar desde una perspectiva intercultural, los usos sagrados, terapéuticos y filosóficos de los hongos con propiedades psicodélicas.
... Se ha propuesto que el kykeon fue una bebida preparada con el ergot (Claviceps purpurea), un hongo parásito que afecta diferentes especies de cereales y contiene diversos alcaloides tóxicos y psicoactivos que son fácilmente hidrosolubles 2 , y por esta razón se considera como el mejor candidato para ser el ingrediente principal de dicha bebida visionaria sagrada utilizada en los misterios de Eleusis (Wasson et al., 2013). Hallazgos arqueológicos recientes han encontrado residuos de ergot en vasijas rituales datadas del período helenístico, lo cual parece dar soporte a la hipótesis de que era este compuesto el responsable de los estados expandidos de conciencia propiciados por la ingesta del kykeon (Samorini, 2019). ...
... The use of psychoactive mushrooms may have begun with our Homo sapien ancestors, including hominids of the Pliocene epoch (Rodríguez Arce and Winkelman, 2021). Relatively more recent use is implied by the discovery of prehistoric 6000 to 8000 year old rock drawings, respectively found in Spain and the Saharan mountains, that depict that ancient peoples had knowledge of the psychoactive effects of psychedelic mushrooms (Samorini, 2019). Moreover, psychoactive mushrooms were used in spiritual rituals by numerous ancient civilizations as far back as 1500 BCE (Carod-Artal, 2015). ...
Psychedelic mushrooms containing psilocybin and related tryptamines have long been used for ethnomycological purposes, but emerging evidence points to the potential therapeutic value of these mushrooms to address modern neurological, psychiatric health, and related disorders. As a result, psilocybin containing mushrooms represent a re-emerging frontier for mycological, biochemical, neuroscience, and pharmacology research. This work presents crucial information related to traditional use of psychedelic mushrooms, as well as research trends and knowledge gaps related to their diversity and distribution, technologies for quantification of tryptamines and other tryptophan-derived metabolites, as well as biosynthetic mechanisms for their production within mushrooms. In addition, we explore the current state of knowledge for how psilocybin and related tryptamines are metabolized in humans and their pharmacological effects, including beneficial and hazardous human health implications. Finally, we describe opportunities and challenges for investigating the cultural production of psychedelic mushrooms and metabolic engineering approaches to alter secondary metabolite production through biotechnology approaches integrated with machine learning. Ultimately, this critical review of all aspects related to psychedelic mushrooms represents a roadmap for future research efforts that will pave the way to new applications and refined protocols.
... These findings indicate that these assessments of acute psychedelic experiences can be applied to Spanish-speaking individuals in laboratory and survey-based research settings, suggesting their applicability to a wider variety of cultural backgrounds. From a historical perspective, the use of psychedelics has been strongly linked to Indigenous and mixed-race populations in Latin America (Samorini 2019), in which the Spanish language is commonly used. This is contrasted with contemporary research involving the use of psychedelics which has mostly focused on Englishspeaking individuals. ...
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This study translated and tested the psychometric properties of acute psychedelic effects measures among Spanish-speaking people. The Psychological Insight Questionnaire (PIQ), Challenging Experiences Questionnaire (CEQ), and Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ) were translated before being incorporated into a web-based survey. We recruited native Spanish-speakers (N = 442; Mage = 30.8, SD = 10.9; Latino/Latina = 62%; Hispanic = 91.4%; male = 71.5%) to assess their previous experience with one of two psychedelics (LSD = 58.4%; Psilocybin = 41.6%) and their acute and enduring effects. Confirmatory factor analysis (confirming factor structure based on the English version) revealed a good fit for the MEQ, PIQ and the CEQ. Repeating our analysis in each drug subsample revealed consistency in factor structure for each assessment tool. Construct validity was supported by significant positive associations between the PIQ and MEQ, and between the PIQ and MEQ and changes in cognitive fusion and negative associations between changes in prosocial behaviors. As a signal of predictive validity, persisting effects (PEQ) were strongly related to scores on the MEQ and PIQ. Findings demonstrate that the Spanish versions of these measures can be reliably employed in studies of psychedelic use or administration in Spanish-speaking populations.
Music and psychedelics have been intertwined throughout the existence of Homo sapiens , from the early shamanic rituals of the Americas and Africa to the modern use of psychedelic‐assisted therapy for a variety of mental health conditions. Across such settings, music has been highly prized for its ability to guide the psychedelic experience. Here, we examine the interplay between music and psychedelics, starting by describing their association with the brain's functional hierarchy that is relied upon for music perception and its psychedelic‐induced manipulation, as well as an exploration of the limited research on their mechanistic neural overlap. We explore music's role in Western psychedelic therapy and the use of music in indigenous psychedelic rituals, with a specific focus on ayahuasca and the Santo Daime Church. Furthermore, we explore work relating to the evolution and onset of music and psychedelic use. Finally, we consider music's potential to lead to altered states of consciousness in the absence of psychedelics as well as the development of psychedelic music. Here, we provide an overview of several perspectives on the interaction between psychedelic use and music—a topic with growing interest given increasing excitement relating to the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic interventions.
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Introduction: The classic psychedelic psilocybin, found in some mushroom species, has received renewed interest in clinical research, showing potential mental health benefits in preliminary trials. Naturalistic use of psilocybin outside of research settings has increased in recent years, though data on the public health impact of such use remain limited. Methods: This prospective, longitudinal study comprised six sequential automated web-based surveys that collected data from adults planning to take psilocybin outside clinical research: at time of consent, 2 weeks before, the day before, 1–3 days after, 2–4 weeks after, and 2–3 months after psilocybin use. Results: A sample of 2,833 respondents completed all baseline assessments approximately 2 weeks before psilocybin use, 1,182 completed the 2–4 week post-use survey, and 657 completed the final follow-up survey 2–3 months after psilocybin use. Participants were primarily college-educated White men residing in the United States with a prior history of psychedelic use; mean age = 40 years. Participants primarily used dried psilocybin mushrooms (mean dose = 3.1 grams) for “self-exploration” purposes. Prospective longitudinal data collected before and after a planned psilocybin experience on average showed persisting reductions in anxiety, depression, and alcohol misuse, increased cognitive flexibility, emotion regulation, spiritual wellbeing, and extraversion, and reduced neuroticism and burnout after psilocybin use. However, a minority of participants (11% at 2–4 weeks and 7% at 2–3 months) reported persisting negative effects after psilocybin use (e.g., mood fluctuations, depressive symptoms). Discussion: Results from this study, the largest prospective survey of naturalistic psilocybin use to date, support the potential for psilocybin to produce lasting improvements in mental health symptoms and general wellbeing.
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Purpose of Review The use of certain illicit substances as a form of therapy, and particularly as an adjunct to psychotherapy, has gained increasing media and academic attention over the last decade, culminating in what has been coined “the psychedelic renaissance.” This section in Current Addiction Reports has been developed in order to highlight the new and emerging research around these and related substances, and how they may be effective in treating not just “problematic” substance use itself but also some of the underlying causes such as trauma-related disorders, depression, and anxiety. It will also consider the therapeutic use of other still largely illicit sub-stances such as cannabis, heroin-assisted treatment, and the prescribing of stimulants for stimulant addiction. The purpose of this review is to introduce the section “illicit drugs in therapy” and to highlight the links between the different disciplines involved in addiction research. Recent Findings Generally speaking, research on substance use focuses on single substances and excludes underlying comorbid mental health conditions or other underlying factors. In the social sciences this link has been developing for some time (cf. Journal of Addiction and Mental Health). However, it is increasingly being recognized in clinical addiction science that addiction often occurs alongside other factors such as mental health conditions, trauma, and poverty, and that many people will use more than one substance, known as polysubstance use. The recent resurgence in the use of illicit substances in the treatment of addiction has sparked an interest in the addiction research field: landmark studies included two proof-of-concept studies—psilocybin-assisted therapy for smoking cessation at Johns Hopkins University and psilocybin-assisted therapy for alcohol addiction trial at the University of New Mexico. Summary This review therefore introduces core concepts, terms, and historical development in order to highlight the emerging research in this area, and to encourage further reviews on research specific to illicit substances in therapy.
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Fermented and alcoholic beverages played a pivotal role in feastings and social events in past agricultural and urban societies across the globe, but the origins of the sophisticated relevant technologies remain elusive. It has long been speculated that the thirst for beer may have been the stimulus behind cereal domestication, which led to a major social-technological change in human history; but this hypothesis has been highly controversial. We report here of the earliest archaeological evidence for cereal-based beer brewing by a semi-sedentary, foraging people. The current project incorporates experimental study, contextual examination, and use-wear and residue analyses of three stone mortars from a Natufian burial site at Raqefet Cave, Israel (13,700–11,700 cal. BP). The results of the analyses indicate that the Natufians exploited at least seven plant taxa, including wheat or barley, oat, legumes and bast fibers (including flax). They packed plant-foods, including malted wheat/barley, in fiber-made containers and stored them in boulder mortars. They used bedrock mortars for pounding and cooking plant-foods, including brewing wheat/barley-based beer likely served in ritual feasts ca. 13,000 years ago. These innovations predated the appearance of domesticated cereals by several millennia in the Near East.
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Conventional wisdom states Cannabis sativa originated in Asia and its dispersal to Europe depended upon human transport. Various Neolithic or Bronze age groups have been named as pioneer cultivators. These theses were tested by examining fossil pollen studies (FPSs), obtained from the European Pollen Database. Many FPSs report Cannabis or Humulus (C/H) with collective names (e.g. Cannabis/Humulus or Cannabaceae). To dissect these aggregate data, we used ecological proxies to differentiate C/H pollen, as follows: unknown C/H pollen that appeared in a pollen assemblage suggestive of steppe (Poaceae, Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae) we interpreted as wild-type Cannabis. C/H pollen in a mesophytic forest assemblage (Alnus, Salix, Populus) we interpreted as Humulus. C/H pollen curves that upsurged and appeared de novo alongside crop pollen grains we interpreted as cultivated hemp. FPSs were mapped and compared to the territories of archaeological cultures. We analysed 479 FPSs from the Holocene/Late Glacial, plus 36 FPSs from older strata. The results showed C/H pollen consistent with wild-type C. sativa in steppe and dry tundra landscapes throughout Europe during the early Holocene, Late Glacial, and previous glaciations. During the warm and wet Holocene Climactic Optimum, forests replaced steppe, and Humulus dominated. Cannabis retreated to steppe refugia. C/H pollen consistent with cultivated hemp first appeared in the Pontic-Caspian steppe refugium. GIS mapping linked cultivation with the Copper age Varna/Gumelniţa culture, and the Bronze age Yamnaya and Terramara cultures. An Iron age steppe culture, the Scythians, likely introduced hemp cultivation to Celtic and Proto-Slavic cultures.
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En este artículo presentamos nuevos conocimientos sobre costumbres fumatorias en tres regiones geográficoculturales de Chile, en que las evidencias de prácticas de fumar en pipas se constatan, con cierto desfase cronológico, desde los inicios del periodo Alfarero Temprano ca. 200 a.C., hasta el 1.300 d.C. El tema se abordó con una metodología multidisciplinaria que incluyó el estudio de los contextos de uso o depositación en que estos materiales fueron encontrados, los estilos morfo-tecnológicos y decorativos de los artefactos y análisis arqueobotánico y químico de las sustancias fumadas. Los resultados obtenidos dan cuenta de dos relevantes y principales aspectos culturales vinculados al uso de artefactos para fumar. Uno de ellos fue constatar la existencia de una práctica generalizada de uso de pipas que involucró a distintos grupos culturales, en el trascurso del periodo Alfarero Temprano y en las tres regiones estudiadas. A su vez, bajo esta tradición suprarregional, se relevó la existencia de importantes particularidades regionales y/o locales. Estas se refieren a las diversas y distintivas expresiones y atributos tecnológicos de los artefactos fumatorios, a la parafernalia asociada, a las diferencias cualitativas en cuanto a sitios y contextos en que fueron depositados estos artefactos y a los rangos de tiempo en que se mantuvieron vigentes estas prácticas.
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Archaeological evidence of Cannabis sativa is comprised of textiles, cordage, fibre and seeds, or pottery impressions of those materials, as well as pseudoliths and phytoliths (pollen is not addressed here). Previous summaries of this evidence connect hemp with Bronze and Iron Age cultures in Europe. This study improves upon earlier summaries by: (1) accessing a larger database; (2) relying on original studies instead of secondary sources; (3) stratifying evidence by its relative robustness or validity. We coupled digital text-searching engines with internet archives of machine-readable texts, augmented by citation tracking of retrieved articles. The database was large, so we limited retrieval to studies that predated 27 bce for west-central Europe, and pre-ce 400 for eastern Europe. Validity of evidence was scaled, from less robust (e.g., pottery impressions of fibre) to more robust (e.g. microscopic analysis of seeds). Archaeological sites were mapped using ArcGIS 10.3. The search retrieved 136 studies, a yield four-fold greater than previous summaries when parsed to our geographic/time constraints. Only 12.5% of studies came from secondary literature. No robust evidence supports claims of Neolithic hemp usage. One Copper Age site in southeastern Europe shows robust evidence (from the Gumelniţa-Varna culture). More robust evidence appears during the Bronze Age in southeastern Europe (Yamnaya and Catacomb cultures). An Iron Age steppe culture, the Scythians, likely introduced hemp cultivation to Celtic, Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures. The results correlate with a recent palynology study of fossil pollen in Europe. We discuss possible autochthonous domestication of Cannabis in Europe.
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In the British Isles, around 4000 BC, people began to cultivate and process barley and wheat. Cereals are generally believed to have been a primary source of carbohydrate in the prehistoric diet to make flour, bread or porridge. They are also a potential source of sugar, when processed using the techniques of malting and mashing. This paper describes our experiments, it explains some of the fundamental processes and looks at the potential archaeological evidence for beer brewing in the British Neolithic.
A multidisciplinary study of pre-Columbian South America—centering on the psychoactive plant genus Anadenanthera As cultures formed and evolved in pre-Columbian South America, Anadenanthera became one of the most widely used shamanic inebriants. Anadenanthera: Visionary Plant of Ancient South America is more than a comprehensive reference on shamanic visionary substances; it is a useful tool for archeologists and pre-Columbian art historians. This thorough book examines the ritual and cultural use of Anadenanthera from prehistory to the present, along with its botany, chemistry, pharmacology, anthropology, and archeology. The earliest evidence for the use of psychoactive plants in South America is provided by remains of seeds and pods recovered from archeological sites four millennia old. Various preparations were derived from it with the intent of being a shamanic inebriant. Inhaled through the nose, smoked in pipes or as cigars, and prepared in fermented drinks, Anadenanthera served a central role in the cultural development of indigenous societies in South America. Anadenanthera: Visionary Plant of Ancient South America explores the full spectrum of information gleaned from research, covering numerous archeological sites in the Andean region, as well as discussing Amazonian shamanic rituals and lore. Analyses of the artistic expressions within the decorations of associated ceremonial paraphernalia such as ritual snuffing tubes and snuff trays are included. The text is richly illustrated with photographs and images of decorated ritual implements, and provides a comprehensive bibliography. Anadenanthera: Visionary Plant of Ancient South America explores: • botanical aspects, taxonomy, and geographical distribution of Anadenanthera • ethnographical, historical, and traditional aspects of Anadenanthera use • chemical and pharmacological investigations of the genus and the various visionary preparations derived from it—with emphasis on the biologically active constituents • theories of the mechanisms of action of the active tryptamines and carboline alkaloids • comparisons of wood anatomy, morphology, and percentage of alkaloid content • evaluation of stylistic and iconographic traits Anadenanthera: Visionary Plant of Ancient South America is a thorough, useful resource for archeologists, anthropologists, chemists, researchers, pre-Columbian art historians, and any layperson interested in pre-Columbian art, archeology, or visionary plants.