According to the study of an anthropologist from the University of Valladolid, Spain, ancient humans used to consume psychoactive drugs like opium and magic mushrooms.
The results of the researcher – Professor Elisa Guerra-Doce – indicate that humans have been into the use of mood-altering substances since the Stone Age.
The evidence for opium poppy farming was spotted in La Marmotta, found in the north west of Rome. Opium poppies might have been cultivated by Neolithic farmers in Italy by around 6000 BC. The drugs they were using might have been derived from cacti in 8 600 BC.
The teeth of the skeleton of a man found buried in a cave near Albuñol, Granada, probably dating back from 4 000 BC revealed traces of an opium poppy capsule.
According to the author of the study, the people back then were using the drugs as narcotics, and not only for other traditional uses, as he said in a statement:
“Apart from its use as a food plant, there is also uncontested evidence for the exploitation of its narcotic properties.”
The professor added that the ancient humans also made use of hallucinogenic plants.
Other drugs have been found in ancient caves. For instance, traces of the cactus Echinopsis pachanoi (also known as San Pedro cactus) and its pollen were discovered in the Guitarrero cave probably used by the ancient people of Peru’s Callejon de Huaylas Valley caves in 8600 BC and 5600 BC. The cactus is known for its content mescaline that is psychedelic in nature.
Echinopsis pachanoi, or San Pedro cactus
Evidence of the chewing of the betel plant leaves – the plant is a mild stimulant – was also found. Reddish stains on the teeth, characteristic of the consumption of the plant, were found on old humans of 13 000 years of age. The teeth were discovered buried in Duyong Cave on Palawan Island in the Philippines.
Furthermore, Bronze Age archaeological sites in the Kara Kurum desert of Turkmenistan revealed the presence of marijuana and the opium poppy.
Bronze Age bowls from Romania – around 2000 BC – were found to contain charred cannabis seeds.
Ancient humans might have also been into tobacco smoking, as pipes from 2100 BC were found in north-west Argentina. Smoking pipes were also found in North America, probably dating back to 2000 BC.
Mummies from South America showed traces of nicotine in their hairs.
Professor Guerra-Doce also reported the use of magic mushroom throughout human history.
Psychotropic mushrooms might have been used in rituals of the people of the Neolithic and Bronze Age as carvings alluding to their use were found in Italian Alps.
Professor Guerra-Doce holds the opinion that the narcotics were used in ceremonies of the ancient people, as opposed to the recreational use characteristic of our contemporary societies. He argues that most of the substances (traces of them) were found in tombs and similar sites bearing some religious significance.