Interesting work from Robinson et al. on stoned stone-age artists (open access article, see comment below)!
Proponents of the altered states of consciousness (ASC) model have argued that hallucinogens have influenced the prehistoric making of images in caves and rock shelters. However, the lack of direct evidence for the consumption of hallucinogens at any global rock art site has undermined the ASC model. We present the first clear evidence for the ingestion of hallucinogens at a rock art site, in this case, from Pinwheel Cave, California. Quids in the cave ceiling are shown to be Datura wrightii, a Native Californian entheogen, indicating that, rather than illustrating visual phenomena caused by the Datura, the rock paintings instead likely represent the plant and its pollinator, calling into question long-held assumptions about rock art and the ASC model.Abstract
While debates have raged over the relationship between trance and rock art, unambiguous evidence of the consumption of hallucinogens has not been reported from any rock art site in the world. A painting possibly representing the flowers of Datura on the ceiling of a Californian rock art site called Pinwheel Cave was discovered alongside fibrous quids in the same ceiling. Even though Native Californians are historically documented to have used Datura to enter trance states, little evidence exists to associate it with rock art. A multianalytical approach to the rock art, the quids, and the archaeological context of this site was undertaken. Liquid chromatography−mass spectrometry (LC-MS) results found hallucinogenic alkaloids scopolamine and atropine in the quids, while scanning electron microscope analysis confirms most to be Datura wrightii. Three-dimensional (3D) analyses of the quids indicate the quids were likely masticated and thus consumed in the cave under the paintings. Archaeological evidence and chronological dating shows the site was well utilized as a temporary residence for a range of activities from Late Prehistory through Colonial Periods. This indicates that Datura was ingested in the cave and that the rock painting represents the plant itself, serving to codify communal rituals involving this powerful entheogen. These results confirm the use of hallucinogens at a rock art site while calling into question previous assumptions concerning trance and rock art imagery.