November 27, 2020

Ancient Pacific Coast Rock Art Paintings and Hallucinogens

Researchers have deduced that rock paintings done by ancient Chumash people in Pinwheel Cave, California were setting the scene for tribal members going into a trance after taking the hallucinogenic plant datura, also known as jimson weed and angel trumpet. The paintings reference the shared tradition of taking that hallucinogen in that cave. The paintings look like an opening datura flower

Researchers knew the Chumash used datura for healing, to counter supernatural forces, for divination, to find lost objects, for medicine, and for coming of age ceremonies.

The researchers found quids stuffed into ceiling crevices. Quids are chewed all over the Ancient Southwest for nutrients or stimulants, including yucca, agave, tobacco. The quids at Pinwheel Cave were also chewed.

A chemical analysis revealed the presence of the Datura’s hallucinogenic compounds atropine and scopolamine, and a scanning electron microscope analysis further identified the quids as Datura, although one quid was made of yucca. The tribal members stuck chewed quids on to the ceiling. This cave was in use from 1600-1800 CE.. Projectile points and an arrow shaft straightener were found in the cave as well. There were ground seeds and animal remains indicating the cave was used for food preparation, storage and communal meals.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Live Science has the report here with photos:

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