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11 April 2011
Earliest evidence for magic mushroom use in Europe

A prehistoric painting in a cave near the town of Villar del Humo, in the province of Cuenca in east-central Spain, may depict fungi with hallucinogenic properties, suggesting that Europeans may have used magic mushrooms 6000 years ago - the oldest evidence for their use in Europe.
     An image of a bull dominates the Selva Pascuala mural, but it is a row of 13 small mushroom-like objects that interests Brian Akers at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, Florida (USA), and Gaston Guzman at the Ecological Institute of Xalapa in Mexico. They believe that the objects are the fungi Psilocybe hispanica, a local species with hallucinogenic properties.
     Like the objects depicted in the mural, Psilocybe hispanica has a bell-shaped cap topped with a dome, and lacks an annulus - a ring around the stalk. "Its stalks also vary from straight to sinuous, as they do in the mural," says Akers.
     A 7000 to 9000 year old Algerian mural that may show the species Psilocybe mairei is the oldest prehistoric painting thought to depict magic mushrooms.

Edited from NewScientist (6 March 2011)

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