| 7 January 2021
Ancient cave art inspired by hallucinogens
New research has uncovered evidence linking prehistoric cave paintings in California and a poisonous flower known for its hallucinogenic properties. According to researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Southampton, native Californians made use of the Datura wrightii plant in various rituals. The researchers have proposed rock art was created as part of a hallucinogenic experience.
The discovery was made during excavations at a cave site in California after archaeologists uncovered cave paintings of what appeared to be the Datura flower. Datura - also known as Jimson weed - has a long history of medicinal and religious use in the southwestern USA. All parts of the plant contain hazardous levels of toxic alkaloids that can be fatal if consumed, however the plant also has a history of being used recreationally as it has been known to induce hallucinations. In Native California, the plant has a strong association with adolescent initiations. Datura's root was processed into a drink for young members of the community to drink.
Archaeologists discovered chewed-up Datura at the site where the painting was discovered, strengthening link between hallucinogens and cave paintings. Because the painting depicts the flower itself rather than the visions it induced, the researchers believe it shows an appreciation for the flower's properties, that the site was used as a communal space for seasonal gatherings, and that art played a significant role in the local community's day-to-day business.
Edited from Express (24 November 2020), Haaretz (25 November 2020)
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