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The Dream on the

The Dream on the

visions of prehistory

Fulvio Gosso

Peter Webster
Published by State University of New York Press, Albany

2013 State University of New York

Il Sogno Sulla Roccia Visioni dalla Preistoria 2011 Edizioni Altravista

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Gosso, Fulvio,
[Il sogno sulla roccia English]
The dream on the rock : visions of prehistory / Fulvio Gosso and Peter
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Summary: Examines the relationship between rock art, shamanism, and the
origins of human existenceProvided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-4384-4875-6 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Petroglyphs. 2. Rock paintings. 3. Art, Prehistoric. 4. Shamanism in
art. I. Title.

GN799.P4G6645 2013
709.01'13dc23 2013000109

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
If it were clear that madness is evil, that would suffice.
Yet mankind receives the greatest of good things
Precisely as a result of that state of delirium given as a divine
Thus the Delphic prophetess and the priestesses at Dodona,
When they are seized by mania do Greece many good things,
Both for the public and for individuals.
But when they are possessed of normal sanity, they do little or
Plato, Phaedrus 224ab

List of Tables and Illustrations / ix

Acknowledgments / xi

Introduction / 1

Foundations of the Research / 11

Sites of the Research / 41

The Significance of the Research / 67

Origins of Psychedelia (Peter Webster) / 83

Notes / 113

Index / 125
List of Tables and Illustrations

Table I.1 Chronology 4

Table I.2 Potential Sources of Archaic Visionary
Consciousness 5
Table I.3 Psychoactive Substances of Archaic Use 7
Figure 1.1 Perimetric wall of small mound
(Boyne Valley, Ireland) 20
Figure 1.2 Carved rock before the entrance at
Newgranges mound (Boyne Valley, Ireland) 21
Figure 1.3 Max Knolls Phosphenes Table 24
Figure 2.1 Pegtymel, anthropomorphic fungal figures
(Far Eastern Siberia) 49
Figure 2.2 Swedish ships and Danish shaver with
fungal images 51
Figure 2.3 Anthropomorphic figureMount Roccer
(Piedmont, Italy) 54
Figure 2.4 Statue-stele Filetto I (Tuscany, Italy) 55
Figure 2.5 Statuestele Filetto VIII (Tuscany, Italy) 56
Figure 2.6 Laxe dos Gebros (Galicia, Spain) 58
Figure 2.7 Examples of spirals in Neolithic Rock Art 59
Figure 2.8 Cup marks on Mount Roccer (Piedmont, Italy) 62


The Dream on the Rock was originally published in Italian as Il Sogno

Sulla RocciaVisioni dalla Preistoria by Edizioni Altravista in 2011.
Our sincere thanks to our good friends Gianluca, Erika, and
Sharon for their invaluable assistance in preparing the translation
from the Italian.


The ancient world of gods and demigods is for us difficult to imagine.

Even the appalling living conditions of prehistory are beyond our
comprehension. Yet in those dark and mysterious times lived the first
experts in modified states of consciousness, the perhaps inaptlynamed
shamans, so important to all the ancient tribes of man.
We say inaptly because, strictly speaking, as Mircea Eliade tells
us, these persons were at one and the same time the sorcerer, the
healer, the priest: Now, shamanism is precisely one of the archaic
techniques of ecstasyat once mysticism, magic, and religion in the
broadest sense of the term. Shamanism was, par excellence, a religious
phenomenon in Siberia and Central Asia. The word comes down to
us through the Russian, Tungus shaman.1
The first information on the practices of shamanism appeared
only at the very end of the European Renaissance, the most reliable
reports date back to the early 1700s.2 Lacking any precise references
about the use of Amanita muscaria, however, it is therein implied
that the Siberian shaman seemed to reach nonordinary states of
consciousness without resorting to psychoactive substances. Rather,
strange powers and natural gifts were passed down within the family
from generation to generation. Shamanism was merely a transmitted
phenomenon, such as the color of eyes or of hair; it was not for eve
ryone to know the secrets. This is the first constant of shamanism.
The transformation of normal to shamanic consciousness is
almost always the result of a personal experience of illness and heal
ing, a mental and/or physical illness or traumatic event that evokes
an experience of death and rebirth. This second constant charac
teristic is well known even in contemporary societythough little
usedwhen the sick man who is healed and thus knows himself is
able to heal in turn.


A further constant of shamanism, characteristic of other times

and other places, is the union of reality and dream, of matter and
spirit, a synthesis of the daily event and the inexplicable event. Con
cerning the importance of meaning there are no boundaries. It is,
rather, the vision, the spiritual context that is prevalent and which
provides guidance on making personal and collective choices.
The shaman is also a consummate and astute actor, always over
the top, flamboyant, gaudy and noisy, masked, painted, strangely
pompous, overblown and moody, an actor capable of playing multi
ple roles, catching the attention as would a magician. And sometimes
maybe it is merely showmanship, yet at root the show is in truth like
a modern psychodrama. Undoubtedly, the shaman is of the trickster
archetype, the divine prankster, enjoying an awareness of the Self and
others which enables modification of the Self. The shamanic practice:
a circumventing of the rational, of necessity employing deception, but
with good intentions.
To summarize briefly, whether shamanism is manifested through
inheritance, or augmented by natural or innate ability, it is universally
born from a spiritual vision, the call, which is almost an obligation
to respond. The rite of passage that becomes manifest is, however,
always a psychological event of death and rebirth of the Self, the
Ego. It requires a cultural context that accepts and integrates the
shamanic event, that supports the shamans power to interact and
respond to lifes theatre of events.
The shamans methods work across the board on the senso
rymotor apparatus, and the auditory is particularly important. Often,
rhythmically simple sounds are repeated, monotonous themes are
performed vocally or with simple wind or string instruments. Long,
singsong, and musically essential: the Carnatic singing of southern
India and singing of Sufi Zikr are wellevolved examples, as is the
sound of Australian didgeridoo and the music and songs of Moroccos
Atlas Mountains or Sbnikoro in Mali.
Almost all socalled ethnic music is shamanicthe genuine
article, of course, and not abridged or commercial versions. The prin
cipal instrument in this production is the drum, sometimes, as in
Siberian tradition, assisted by bells. (In the 1950s such music was
forbidden by the Soviet regime in an effort to suppress the shamanic
practices of Kamtchatka, practices that did not fit the official concep
tion of genuine socialism.)
Eliade devotes several pages of his book to the role of the drum,
the construction of which is in itself a precise ritual. The choice of

wood, the leather and its tanning, the methods of assembly.. .noth
ing is left to chance. The percussion is simple, monotonous, smooth
and steady, prolonged, often accompanied by a song with no true
melody, story, or the invocation of a song. Dance is not a require
ment but often accompanies the sound, even as an almost involuntary
rhythmic movement, or as postures that may imitate hunting or the
movements of the hunted animal.
The relationship with all of nature, with both plants and ani
mals, is fundamental. One never hears or reads of urban shamans.
Instead, the context is universally the vast wilderness, and as Ger
man ethnologist Hans Peter Duerr explains,3 the vastness is not only
a physical dimension but also an existential category. Of particular
interest is the relationshipalmost fusionwith the animalguide
with which the shaman identifies himself. The identification is com
plete: the shaman becomes a bear, a wolf, a bird.
To take upon himself an animal consciousness can be under
stood only with reference to the deep and irremediable diversity of
the metacommunicative context of the shaman of another age, an
age when proximity to the model animal was much more significant
than in modern times. It was a closeness both on the behavioral and
biological plan, a closeness of imitation and competition in the activ
ity of hunting, in nutritional similarities, in the aural and kinaesthetic
domains, in reproductive activity and in group movements.
A final aspect typical of shamanism concerns the real magic, in
particular the techniques of healing that involve recovering the soul
of the sick from the spirit world in which he is lost. The ecstatic
trance of the shaman takes him along the line of the Axis Mundi, a
perfect pathway that rises from the depths of the earth to the sky and
the stars, and whose abstract and concrete correlates are represented
by the tree or sacred mountain, gorges, caves, and grottos. Unlike the
common man who lingers between the earth and the sky, in a trance
the shaman learns how to move along the sacred route by working as
a healer, psychopomp, or as a priest, to deify, to communicate with
spirit allies, even to change the climate or strike enemies.
Universally diffused in shamanic techniques is the use of natural
psychedelics, most often single plants or extracts thereof, but some
times mixtures of psychoactive substances, including the devices and
techniques that can deliver the active ingredients. The ethnobotanist
Richard Evans Schultes remains the undisputed authority in this field.
In 1992 Terence McKenna, ethnobotanist and anthropologist,
assembled an interesting historical and political evaluation on the role

of psychoactive plants from prehistory to the present day, searching for

a common thread that links shamanism, the Paleolithic archaic revo
lutionary and Neolithic conservative, atal Huyuk and Eleusis,
continuing on through to todays use and abuse of such substances.4
It is a long journey, perhaps too long, too difficult to unify using a
single interpretative framework. We have the feeling that where cer
tain elements were lacking, imagination was substituted. McKennas
view highlights an important question, however: How to determine
the anthropological significance and potential effects of the psychoac
tives in human prehistory and evolution.

Table I.1. Chronology


LOWER PALEOLITHICACHEULEAN: dated finds of human labor

500,000 BP*
MIDDLE PALEOLITHICMUSTERIAN finds dating from 120,000 to
35,000 BP
UPPER PALEOLITHIC finds dating from 13,000 to 10,000 BP
MESOLITHIC from 10,000 to 6000 BP
OLD NEOLITHIC from 6000 to 4000 BP
MIDDLE NEOLITHIC from 4000 to 3500 BP
RECENT NEOLITHIC from 3500 to 2700 BP
INITIAL ENEOLITHIC from 2700 to 2500 BP
ADVANCED ENEOLITHIC from 2500 to 2000 BP
FINAL ENEOLITHIC from 2000 to 1800 BP
OLD BRONZE AGE from 1800 to 1600 BP
MIDDLE BRONZE AGE from 1600 to 1300 BP
RECENT BRONZE AGE from 1300 to 900 BP
IRON AGE from 900 to 500 BP
* = Before Present, or more accurately, before 1950




The British researcher Paul Devereux5 followed a roughly similar

path. He previously worked at Princeton University and was a par
ticipant in researches of unexplained phenomena. Devereux currently
writes for the journal Time & Mind, and presents an interpretation
from the point of view of cognitive archaeology. In addition to many
valuable insights, at times he digresses to some special themes, such
as the geomantic and shamanic landscapes, geography of trance, etc.
In addition to psychoactives, other techniques have been used
to produce nonordinary states of consciousness. Some aspects of the
shamans methods considered above have parallels to hypnotic trance
which, as mentioned, can also be selfinduced. No evidence of precise
data related to specific breathing techniques has been found, yet we
know that hypo and hyperventilation can readily alter consciousness.
It is possible that the effect was overlooked by observers, disguised
as the side effect of the singing and/or dancing, or from motor agita
tion as described by the few witnesses to shamanic sessions in Siberia
where the phenomena originated.
In addition, all the boundary conditions and extremes of set
ting can change consciousness as well: cold, fear, pain or the recently
rediscovered burning heat of the sweat lodge. Perhaps a role was also
played by ingestion of overtly toxic and poisonous substances, or viral
or genetic neurologically manifested diseases, which were somehow
totally or partially overcome, more or less fortuitously.6

Table I.2. Potential Sources of Archaic Visionary Consciousness

(psychoactive, psychedelic, hallucinogenic, etc., plants and fungi)


(daydreams, light/shade, ambiguous figures, mimicry, clouds, fog, dark, etc.)


(plot, color fields, geometric shapes, pressure on the eyeball, fix a light
source, sun, fire . . .)

(fixing perception, concentration on particular . . .)
continued on next page

Table I.2. Continued

(lightning, volcanic eruptions, northern light, shooting stars, comets,
earthquakes, eclipses . . .)


(hypnagogic and hypnopompic stages)

(spontaneous hyperventilation and hypoventilation, didgeridoo, ritual
suffocating, Pranayama . . .)


(dance, chants, mantras, prayers, litanies, rhythmic music, sufi
techniques . . .)


(Christian mysticism, shamanism . . .)


(Christian mysticism, Sun Dance . . .)


(e.g., visions of ergotism)


(e.g., epilepsy of the temporal lobes)


(panic, fainting, accidents, electrocution, acute pain . . .)


(NDE, mystical appearances, demonic, phantasmatic, astral travel
Kundalini, etc.)

It is certain that the anthropological phenomenon called sha

manism existed from the earliest of times, and spread to the four
corners of the world. Philosophical and religious aspects of shaman
ism permeated ensuing and highly complex systems such as Taoism,
Tantra, and the esoteric currents of contemporary world religions.

It was an important influence for Greek Platonic and Neoplatonic

thought, in preColumbian societies, in ancient Egypt and the middle
East region, and certainly a factor in European medieval witchcraft.
In an attempt to trace the origins of shamanism to more than
sparse archaeological finds, we will rely on what the ancients told the
stones, evidence that is not always easy to interpret: the pictures and
symbols Paleolithic and Neolithic man painted and engraved on rock
with a systematic determination, and for reasons not always compre
hensible. That he was an artist we can recognize in retrospect, but that
art was the sole purpose of our ancestors work does not seem possible.
The global dimensions of Rock Art are impressive.7 There are
hundreds of thousands of paintings and carvings already known and
much remains to be discovered. They date from a period of time
ranging from forty thousand years BP through to the time of the
origins of writing. The impressive similarity of themes and techniques
in examples found tens of thousands of miles apart is perhaps the
most significant evidence of the existence of a common worldwide
consciousness as well as a collective unconscious.
The coordinates of this science identify four categories of
spacetime: archaic hunters, advanced hunters, shepherds and cattle
breeders, people with complex economy; and five types of representa
tion: anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, topographic, tools and weapons,
symbols and ideograms. There is also a further type that does not
seem to fit with these categories, these are the cupmarks of which
we will speak later.

Table I.3. Psychoactive Substances of Archaic Use


Those interested in shamanic representations can not help but

be struck by the mixed anthropozoomorphic typology (therianthro
py). These are of creatures half human and half animal, often drawn
in positions implying dance or movement. Perhaps the most famous
is The Wizard, found in the cave of Les Trois Frres in France. In
the rendering by the abbot, Henri Breuil, the creature has reindeer
or deer antlers, the ears of a wolf, and the beard or mane and tail of
a horse, with deep, penetrating eyes, and the male organ is clearly
in evidence.
Other figures of this kind are found in Spain, Siberia, Aus
traliaeven the most typical of the anthropomorphic figures might
remind one of the paintings of Miro, Chagall, and Picasso. They
express characters hallucinating, images that are not merely attribut
able to the essential technique and spontaneity of the artist. Many of
them, we would say the majority, are creatures of dream and visions,
they are from the interface between the ordinary world of everyday
life and the world of magic and spirits, sometimes referred as the
nierka, or the nagual.
Neither can one miss the strong and explicit reference to anoth
er classic theme: sexuality, mating, male and female genitalia. The
penis is always portrayed erect, including in circumstances such as
hunting, not merely erotic but as a clear sign of virility, of power.
There are also specific references about the use of psychoac
tives, substances capable of illuminating the dark night of prehistory.
There are three major sites depicting this ancient ritual: the Seminole
Canyon in Texas, the Tassili plateau in Algeria, and the Pegtymel
region in northeastern Siberia.
In Panther Cave, a series of large, slender characters carry in
their arms, wide open and facing upward, thorny cactuses and other
plants that, in context of the location, refer to ritual psychoactive
use.8 Evidence from excavations in the same geographical area of
Texas identified traces of Sophora (Calia) secundiflora, Ungnadia spe-
ciosa, and different types of peyote.
In the extreme north of central Siberia, Devlet9 identified
numerous anthropomorphs from their mushroomshaped heads. In
the area of Pegtymel, very close to the Bering Strait, women with a
mushroomshaped figure, this time placed on top of the head, provide
evidence of the ancient use of Amanita muscaria. The location on
top of the head is a clear reference to the effects of the psychoactive

Located in the heart of the Algerian Sahara and dating back

some seven thousand years, the representations drawn by ancient
huntergatherers of this period, known as Tassili Round Heads, carry
with themselves and upon themselves, or rather on their costumes
and on anthropomorphic masks, clear drawings of mushrooms that
suggest the psychoactive psilocybe. The presence of mushrooms in an
area that is now desert confirms the great meteorological and geologi
cal changes which occurred in the Sahara over the past ten thousand
years. The discovery and interpretation of the Tassili paintings is the
work of an Italian ethnomycologist, Giorgio Samorini.10
Additionally, Samorini11 cites as potential mushroom stones the
morphologically perfect KudaKallu from the southern Indian mega
lithic culture of Kerala. These huge umbrella stones were erected
between 1000 BC and AD 100, although it is not clear which sacred
mushroom is being referred to, given that many different species are
plentiful in the area. Neither is it known what rituals might be asso
ciated with them.
Other somewhat less significant evidence about the archaic use
of psychoactives may be found in Tanzania and elsewhere in the
world, but what we find interesting is that most of the anthropomor
phic examples, and even other types, seem to have been executed
in nonordinary states of consciousness or in the moments follow
ing these states. We see compositions that mix reality with fantasy
with little or no regard for size, perspective, proportions, or distances.
Overlays, transparencies, physiognomy and characteristics typical of
a childs drawing...a psychiatrist would consider them regressive,
figures suspended in space, lacking lines indicating land or spatial
coordinates, drawings that are more emotional than cognitive, arche
types...these are all messages from the collective unconscious.

Foundations of the Research

The Religious Problem and the Origins of Consciousness

If by religion we mean (1) a structured system of repeated and

repeatable cults and rituals, (2) a reference to alleged divinities or
supernatural beings, (3) the existence of some kind of officiants hier
archy, (4) places specifically assigned to this purpose, and (5) a notable
number of followers or believers who recognize themselves in these
practices, then there is no doubt that such a religious or protoreli
gious form in socalled prehistory did not exist, at least until the
Middle/Late Neolithic period. Moreover, the worldwide distribution of
advanced religious forms took place gradually and in different and
widely separated places. Extensive world areas were as yet excluded
from it when such anthropological phenomena began to appear in
India, Egypt, and the Middle East.
LeroiGourhans palaeontological researches systematically
demolish the insubstantial scientific evidence about presumed cults
of the bones, the mythical cult of the bear, and funerary rituals
demonstrating with purported certainty the existence of postmortem
expectations. The discovered finds are too scarce and the possible
number of variables too high. He concludes, not without some justi
fied sarcasm:

Prehistory is a kind of clayheaded colossus, whose fragility

increases as one ascends from the ground to the head. The
colossus feet, made up of geological, botanical and zoologi
cal evidence seem solid; but already the hands turn out to
be more friable, since the study of prehistoric practices is
marked by a large conjectural halo.


As for the head, this one, alas!, crumbles at the

slightest touch...the prehistoric man modifies his own
religious personality, and now appears as a bloody sorcerer,
then devout collector of ancestors skulls, and again rutted
dancer or sceptical philosopheraccording to the authors.1

The complete ignorance by many scholars of the role played

in prehistory by NonOrdinary States of Consciousness (henceforth
NOSCs) and associated psychoactive substances has deep historical
roots. None of the researchers from the end of the nineteenth cen
tury on have dealt with the primitive mentality, the epiphany of
the sacred, archaic supernatural beliefs, or magic and protoreligious
visions. None have ever dealt with the matter of the origin of the
sacred from a point of view we may call laic, that is, as a result of
knowledge acquired over a period of time employing actual tools able
to act on the mental faculties, tools capable of enlarging the psyche
of normal consciousness, the ordinary perception of reality.
Many are the renowned names involved, from Comte and Dur
kheim to Malinowski and LvyBruhl, to Frazer and Eliade. We should
not really be surprised by such ignorance in light of Enlightenment
Positivism, Historical Materialism, and JudeoChristian culture, each
of which has established and different reasons, sometimes opposed, to
evade recognition of the importance of the NOSC and its influence
on human evolution.
It is quite clear that Palaeolithic prehistoric man was essentially
a technological man driven by a condition of necessity aimed at
resolving primary survival needs, and that this habit of mind, this
practicality, predominated in his behavior even in areas not strictly
linked to impelling material needs.
Giving a name to surrounding objects and phenomena is the
first step in making them less dangerous and more intelligible; the
next step lies in establishing cause and effect relations that work if
they are repeatable and allow the subduing of objects, phenomena,
or associations.
That fire burns, warms, lights, and cooks are facts that dont
need scientific explanations, but that it could be initiated and con
trolled is already a subsequent shift to a relationship between fuel,
supporter of combustion (oxygen), and tinder. That through either
lightning or spontaneous combustion, regarding it as a gift from
the heavens with a contribution of spirits of the air and Father Sun

is simply another way to signify the same concept that has nothing
religious about it, even if it introduces as magical a vision of things

It is true that remarkable differences in structure and func

tionality are found between religion and magic, between
the priests and magicians ritual practices, but the culture
medium is the same, and one wouldnt at all say that the
differential characteristics disfavour magic. Ancient tradi
tion, open to individual experience and creativity, the active
initiative of making, the inventive and feverish practice of
the arts and works, of industrious activities on natural
phenomena and events, has for millennia often been typi
cal of magical practices. We see evidence of such practices
even in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in
pre- and parascientific research. Mauss and Hubert wrote:
For its practical purposes, the mechanical characteristics of
many of its applications, the pseudoexperimental appear
ance of some of its main notions, it [magic] resembles the
laic techniques (General Theory of Magic, pp. 8687).
And further: Magic is essentially an art of doing and
the magicians have carefully used their knowhow, their
tour de main, their manual skill. It was the future of pure
production; it does with words and gestures what techni
cians do with work. Fortunately the magical art has never
gestured in vain. It has dealt with matters pursuant to
real experiences as well as discoveries (p.139). The same
magical attitude towards nature, acting upon it according
to its laws, and even violating or modifying them as well,
is generally a predisposition to scientific acting and tech
nological inventiveness. This, in antithesis to the religious
attitude of submission to the sacred, of dependence as
creatures, subjects to the divine, etc.2

We may note also that the alleged cult of the dead is very far
from a merely religious vision of the phenomenon. On the contrary,
it seems consequent upon a quite material logic. The body with
out life is for a certain period persistent to the individual who has
inhabited it. As such, it has to be preserved by burial, protecting it
from carnivores forays. It has to be nourished with foods, herbs, and

supplied with tools that are stored in the tomb in order to allow the
deceased a continuation. And finally, affection for the dead requires
the preservation of the bones, nothing more and nothing less.
It is quite normal that in the first closeknit communities spe
cialization of family and multifamily tasks were begun, the sturdier,
braver, faster, healthier, the ones better endowed with a sharper sight
and manual skills, became hunters and warriors. The women devoted
themselves to bringing up the children, gathering and selecting herbs,
tubers, roots, mushrooms, fruits. Early experimentation in this field
must have been dramatic, especially in lean times, with the significant
risk of ingesting poisonous and toxic substances, some with the deceit
of pleasant tastes. And it is surely through such trial and error that
the existence and use of psychoactive and hallucinogenic substances
entered into our ancestors store of knowledge and experiences.
Very probably the first discoveries and revelations about the
other vegetal properties dealt with pain reduction and curative uses,
but also other lessexplored hypotheses are possible. For example, at
low doses the Psilocybe mushrooms seem to enhance ones attention
and concentration level and sharpen visual perception and discrimi
nating abilities, a useful result for hunting. Other substances such as
coca leaves, but also the flyagaric, enhance resistance to fatigue and
hunger, augmenting performance abilities for any tasks at hand.
Evolution generates new occupations and stores of knowledge
that could be socialized and exchanged. The shamanhealer, man or
woman, is one such agent or employee, whose natural habitat was
a specific metacommunicative context, the wild nature dimension3
propaedeutic for entry into other dimensions inaccessible in the ordi
nary state of consciousness of daily routine.
To find today a wild nature, a forest, taiga, or desert, we have
to make long and expensive journeys and the charm of the place can
be quickly extinguished by a passing aircraft or the untimely trill of
a mobile phone. The same safetyensuring conditions with which we
travel, (weapons, food, medicines, various suitable technologies) make
doubtful even the possibility of this particular relationship with nature.
During the prehistoric epoch it was sufficient merely to exit
ones cave or hut to be plunged into this certainly dangerous but also
undoubtedly exciting and imaginative dimension. It was in this not
only geographical but also mystical place that the senses resounded,
expandedthe emotions, discoveries, and curiosities fed not only the
body but also the spirit.

From an ethnological point of view,4 we identify three kinds

of shamanism: (1) an elemental or primary one aimed at ensuring a
positive outcome in hunting, good health, fertility, (2) a secondary
complex shamanism dealing also with home, familiar, and community
rituals, with a greater formal complexity and employing plenty of
paraphernalia, and (3) a syncretic shamanism acting in parallel with
complex religious systems (Lamaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.),
predominantly female. The clients of the first two typologies are
restricted to family clans and the village, while the shamans com
mon features seem to be typically individualistic concerning both the
powers exercised and the knowledge transmitted. He seems to operate
in relative solitude, and there isnt in fact a shamanic coterie, a group
of specialists who consult and collaborate.
In this case as well the hypothesis of a religious significance
appears very feeble at best, if not nonexistent. That the shamanic
tradition is ancestral and provides for the abundant use of psychoac
tive substances is acknowledged by the great majority of experts on
this topic, and supporting references coming from the study of rock
art are numerous. We will revisit this subject repeatedly in the fol
lowing chapters. It remains here to understand how the origins of the
religious problem arose.
It is merely hypothesis, but, paradoxically, it could be precisely
the absence or the transcendence of the shamanic figure (also through
forms of mythical deification, see Dionysus, Morpheus, Odin, etc.) and
his substitution that has quickened this course.
In absence of the shamaninterpreter, the decoder of visionary
mysteries, there is room for a plurality of points of view (this is in
fact the meaning of the word Darshana in Hindu philosophy). This
multiplicity requires widerange cosmological and unifying systema
tization. It is significant that the authors of the most ancient texts,
such as the Tantra and Taoist writings, are unknown, but the passage
to such complex and still very laic forms, taking other roads in other
contexts, studded with divinities to soothe and worship, is an evolu
tion of the natural spirits, both animal and vegetal.
But beyond the codification of spirituality, the sacred, and the
mystic, a more mundane problem arises: the administration of the
political power that follows.
The concept of a visionary lite implies the existence of a
group invested with power that is preserved over time, through the
politicalreligious management of the authority conferred by the

knowledge procured by the visions (as in psychopompic and funer

ary rituals of the Neolithic epoch). The result being that the rest of
the population is excluded from direct experience and practices of
the vision.
The lites power concerns not merely the ability to manage
ecstatic techniques, whether or not they employ supporting psycho
active substances. It is more complex, since it implies the political
ability to extend to the group the fruits of the vision metabolized
by the lite, and to manage the resulting power, creating an expecta
tion in the larger group, the aforementioned believers, who believe
without directly sharing the vision itself.

The neuropsychological approach thus complements socio

logical accounts of the political role of megalithic tombs
by identifying types of spiritual experience and show
ing how this experience and its imagery may have been
manipulated and keyed into the structure of the tombs to
reproduce social and economic domination.5

During the passing of time, the visionary lite sets itself up

as a caste, obtains temporal power, generates affiliations and social
structures, deepens and codifies its knowledge, and with the advent
of writing historicizes the resulting religious edifice to make it tem
porally enduring. The result is that it becomes even more true,
increasing the consent of the masses, and also becoming productive
from a material, economic, and political point of view. It aids the
occupation of new territories, the management of the masses, the
control of sexuality and malefemale relationships, it invents prayers,
sacraments, and apotropaic gestures, which replace the old magic with
a new one, it purports to open a preferential channel with the divin
ity, drives away previous beliefs, and creates cult locations: The Age
of Religions has arrived.
The use of psychoactives now becomes sacramental and
continues as before, even more so and openly in, for example the
preColumbian civilizations. It becomes masked by new denomina
tions, the Moly in the mythical Kabiria, the Kykeon in Eleusis, the
Babylonian Aradea, the Vedic Soma, the Persian Haoma...The
suspicion is strong of the presence of such a feature in the Egyptian
cults as well as in Buddhism, Mithraism, even Christianity, whose

iconography is studded with hallucinogenic mushrooms from as early

as AD 500.6
Primitive mentality seems to be ruled by an elemental dualistic
principle7 very similar to what happens in the infantile differentiation
process. The plurality of opposites introduces an order into the world
and nature: night and day, hot and cold, hunger and satiety, pleasure
and pain, sun and moon, rain and drought, male and female. These are
the logical constitutive relationships of spacetime of the individual
and the group, the base elements around which there is collective
agreement, a shared reality thus leading to culture construction.
The process primed by psychoactive substances in particular
and more generally by NOSCs, involves a suspension of this shared
reality, introducing unexpected variables, remodeling the dualistic
scheme of thought, putting in a critical position the certainties of
the consensus reality. The process certainly forces questions about
existential complexity and the order of the world. The experience is
the dream and dreamers dimension, a fruitful dimension, creative,
also mystical and spiritual, even religious if set and setting promote
such an outcome. But that was not the case with prehistoric man.
It follows that

[t]he socalled technologies of the sacred are just this:

technical devices, which are sometimes extremely refined,
devices that redefine and confirm cultural equilibrium,
devices that repair, metabolise and resist through recall,
reconfirmation, and reelaboration within the structure
of the fundamental codes. Likewise, consider the induced
NOSC as a passageway into the organism, by means of
an individual or group representing a specific culture. A
crisis, a questioning of the human organism or the shap
ing of the universe, all of these things are cognitised, thus
making way to confirmation of the fundamental cultural
regulators, to a neurovegetative retuning, to the expression
of the emotions registered in the body.8

The Jungian analyst Erich Neumann devoted one of his texts

to an extensive analysis of the origin of consciousness.9 He takes into
consideration the mythical aspects of the phenomenon and secondly
the involvement of an analyticalclinical level. The two points of

view are somewhat removed from our psychoanthropological evalu

ation presented here, but it is necessary to briefly sum up Neumanns
idea of mythical evolution. At the beginning there was Uroboros,
represented by the Egyptian symbol of the snake biting its tail. This
symbol of eternal return preceded the arising of the opposites, and
the meaning is also associated with the circle, the mandala, the womb
and amniotic quietness (the first perinatal matrix according to Stan
islav Grof). In the second stage, the archetype of the Great Mother
dominates, who for Neumann is essentially a devourer and exact
ing bad mother who establishes a control on sexuality and fertility
(Cybele and the castration rites). Overcoming her implies the separa
tion of the rebel male from the Great Mother, who in the origins of
Uroboros was both male and female at the same time.
This second stage therefore implies the separation from the
parents of the World, the origin of the opposites, in the spiritual
sense the opposition between Light and Darkness, Me and You, male
and female, the range of the opposed emotions and therefore also
of a primitive recognition of the Self. As we consider the differ
ent mythical stages described by Neumann in more detail, we will
find correspondences to aspects of biological and psychic species
Gebsers research on consciousness evolution is significant too.10
He believes consciousness to have undergone restructurings during
human history, with each phase marked by a different kind of aware
ness corresponding to four sequential mental sets:

archaic, entirely instinctive (before Neanderthal);
magical, preego, intuitive, acting in the form of ana
logical thought, prerational (first cave paintings);
mythical, privileging symbols, creativity, feelings, irra
tional thought (birth of the great religions);
mental, based on reflective abilities, rational thought
(Greek philosophers, but the existence of the mythical
dimension remains).

Each mental structure conditions the interpretative context of real

ity of the period. According to Gebser, a fifth consciousness struc

ture should be about to appear, defined as integral, incorporating the

four previous ones yet at the same time transcending them, beyond
rational thought.
Concerning the origin of consciousness, the researches of a
group of linguists and philologists (Alinei, Costa, Harpending, and
others) are of particular interest as well. This group proposes a Pal
aeolithic Continuity Paradigm (PCP), a new paradigm in contrast with
the now obsolete theories on the IndoEuropean exogenous origin
of the languages and populations present in Europe since the Neo
lithic era.
Concerning an evolutionary pathway that was independent from
and in addition to the biological evolution of the cerebral cortex,
Costa mentions the works by Merlin Donald11 who considers miming
behavior as a forerunner of verbal language. Socrates (469399 BC)
well represents, according to Costa, the watershed for the birth of the
dialogicverbal selfconsciousness as we mean it:

We are not aware of any climatic or geographic factor

which could have produced such a selective pressure to
cause modern mans appearance....
Consequently, in all probability, . . . the evolution of
modern humans occurred in light of a cultural change, and
perhaps the evolutionary pressure occurred when a cogni
tive innovation offered a group of hominids a meaningful
cultural advantage over other groups.12

As we shall see in the last chapter of this book, a possible answer

regarding the abovementioned cognitive input comes from research
concerning psychoactive substances.
The technological prehistoric man has therefore also dealt
with the mind (according to Gourhan); experiences in this realm
have produced, first unintentionally and then by choice, variations
of consciousness and subsequently new knowledge about himself and
his fellow man, and on the nature surrounding them. In Table I.2
we have listed a long series of possible techniques and catalysts that
can produce NOSCs. Any of these might theoretically have acted in
such a way, but actually only two of these catalysts can be considered
proved and provable scientific certainties: the entoptic phenomena
and the psychoactive substances.

The Entoptic Phenomena

In 1988, the archaeologists David LewisWilliams of South Africa and

the Englishman Thomas Dowson published an article in the Ameri
can journal Current Anthropology13 that caused considerable debate in
the international scientific community. The authors established a link
between elementary hallucinatory formsthe phosphenesand the
strange and unexplainable representations engraved on stone found in
numerous sites, especially those of the Upper Palaeolithic and Neo
lithic epochs. Concentric circles, spirals, wavy and zigzag lines, grids,
closed and open irregular geometric outlines, stars and crossshaped
forms not belonging to subsequent Christian religious symbols, etc.
Some years before,14 a possible role for phosphenes in rock art
had already been suggested as a direct or indirect consequence of the
ingestion of known psychoactive substances. Cited examples were
rock art in Almeria in Spain, from the Tukano Indians in Columbia,
and from the Chumash in California.
LewisWilliams and Dowson start from the postulate that the
human nervous system is universal and that it underwent little change

Figure 1.1. Perimetric wall of small mound (Boyne Valley, Ireland)


from the Upper Palaeolithic to modern times. On certain occasions

luminous perceptions independent from external sources are produced
spontaneously, and they mention especially the researches of Klver,
one of the earliest psychedelic researchers on peyote and Gestalt
psychology. Electrical stimulations, eyeball compression, fixation on
luminous sources, hyperventilation, fatigue and sensory deprivation,
prolonged rhythmic movements, hemicrania, mental diseases, and
of course the psychoactive substances all can contribute to promote
these phenomena. The socalled entoptic phenomena include there
fore both phosphenes and geometric form constants (gratings, tri
angles, chequers, polygons, cobwebs, tunnels, funnels, vessels, cones,
spirals). Along with the iconic hallucinations, subsequent to percep
tive evolution, they are regulated by seven general principles: rep
lication, fragmentation, integration, superimposition, juxtaposition,
duplication, and rotation.
During a NOSC, mental imagery can develop through three
stages of increasingly complex organization, passing from the entoptic
phenomena to the iconic forms and lastly to iconic images, the latter
being more structured, true hallucinations often linked to powerful

Figure 1.2. Carved rock before the entrance at Newgranges mound (Boyne
Valley, Ireland)

emotional changes. This neuropsychological model has been subjected

to a verification with the Sans shamanism and rock art in South
Africa and with that of the Coso Shoshones in California. The two
researchers find in these examples numerous confirmations for both
the entoptic phenomena and for their evolution into the ensuing
two stages, and have been induced to extend their hypotheses to the
European Palaeolithic art at sites such as Les TroisFrres, Niaux,
Lascaux, and Altamira.
As for human images, it is difficult to know if the representations
depict the artist himself or other persons. Some entoptic typologies
seem to be linked to the authors somatognosic structure, for example
the zigzags or the spirals that could well have been produced dur
ing the cenestesic trembling that often precedes the entry into the
shamanic trance.
The integration between human and animal in the therian
thropic figures, already present at a level of the central nervous system
and then activated by the NOSC, seems instead to be the result of
two juxtaposed iconic images.
Moreover, LewisWilliams and Dowson hypothesize that some
entoptic phenomena can repeat themselves as afterimages retained
for long periods and employed as such to paint the European caves.
They write,

At one point between the Acheulian and the Magdalen

ian, the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, there was
an intensification of production, an apparent increase in
the artists entoptic repertoire, the addition of representa
tional images and, quite possibly, a new desire for durable
depictions. The few early examples of engraved entoptic
phenomena suggest that this intensification was not the
result of changes in the human brain and nervous system.
Rather, social circumstances changed, and in these new
circumstances mental imagery, its projection and fixing,
achieved new significance. Probably, new social forms
provided a niche for an experience and associated practice
that had its roots deep in the past.15

In a subsequent article published in 1993,16 the two authors

refer also to Bradley and Pattons researches on European megalithic
art. Their neurophysiological model thus finds a logical extension in

the Neolithic, especially with regard to the phosphenes stage. The

megalithic art in Brittany, England, and Ireland is spectacular in this
sense, two such examples being the surrounding walls of the lesser
tumuli and the stone put in front of the entrance door of the huge
Newgrange tumulus in the Boyne Valley.
LewisWilliams and Dowson underscore the role of duplication,
which, starting from single elements, allows building large and com
plex fillings and filigrees. It is possible to see a good correspondence
between the abovementioned theories and the Phosphenes Table of
Max Knoll, a psychophysiologist who had nothing to do with pre
historic rock art.
In an interesting and quantitative analysis carried out by Dron
field,17 the presence of entoptic marks (spirals, circles, curves, lines,
etc.) in the rock art of the Irish megalithic tomb entrances of the
fourth millennium BC is described. The author has searched for links
between these marks and possible inductors such as selfinduced phos
phenes, staring into the sun, hemicrania, and chemical ones, LSD and
psilocybin, finding positive correlations as for these latter two induc
tors in the sites of Knowth 1, Newgrange, Knockmany, Sess Kilgreen,
and Loughcrew. It is obvious that LSD wasnt present in that period
but the author suggests ergot (its presence has been ascertained in two
or three sites in Spain) as a possible inductor besides the psilocybin
mushrooms surely present in Ireland in the Neolithic epoch.
LewisWilliams and Dowsons arguments in this branch of sci
ence have come to be known as the shamanic hypothesis, and have
been accepted as such by a large part of this scientific community,
of course not without criticisms and remarks that for the most part
can be shared.
We see that the cultural role of the third stage representation
al iconic images is underscored, and therefore partly uncoupled from
the consequences of the purely neuropsychological hallucinations of
the first two entoptic and iconicformal stages. With regard then to
European Palaeolithic parietal art, it seems moreover that it was often
inspired by a kind of very real impressionist realism, especially for
the zoomorphic representations. This also makes one think of a simple
desire to reproduce what actually exists, framed within some ritual
form, of course, but not always executed by means of suggestions
drawn from a modified state of consciousness.18
Others maintain19 that the evaluations carried out on the South
African Sans shamanic tradition are in the context of the present

ethnological moment and that as such they cannot be extended to

the prehistoric epoch. We are not expert on the subject but think
that the proximity relationship of presentday primitive populations
with prehistoric man is an acceptable comparison in some limited
cases. At least for the present case in which the Sans present sha
manic iconographies are inscribed in the archaic tradition without
substantial changes.
A strong, even somewhat resentful criticism has been published
by a group of French researchers.20 We feel that the shamanic hypoth
esis needs no counsel for the defense, but since these authors deal also
with psychactives some clarification is needed, especially when they
plainly reveal that they know little about the subject. They claim (p.
55) that Amanita muscaria was known in Europe only starting from the
early Middle Ages (their reference is Albertus Magnus, De Vegetalibus
et plantis, circa 1260), when in fact it is known that Pliny the Elder
in the first century AD had already demonstrated knowledge of the
mushroom in his Naturalis Historia: The earth, in fact, produces first
the womb or vessel for the mushroom, and then the mushroom inside,
as the yolk in the egg (Book 22, par. 46). Moreover, recent research
on the phylogenetic origin of the flyagaric21 attests its presence start
ing from the Tertiary, and there is little doubt about the plurimil

Figure 1.3. Max Knolls Phosphenes Table


lenary presence of conifers and birches with which A. muscaria is in

mycorrhyzic relationship.
But if a valid criticism can be made on LewisWilliams and
Dowson it concerns precisely their basic neuropsychological approach,
and not because it isnt correct and applicable, but because it is insuf
ficient to explain the wide perceptivevisual evidence, at least (but
not restricted to) that which is activated by psychoactive substances.
A typical example about how perception could be deceived
in the state of normal consciousness of daily existence is given by
mimicry phenomena in which the figure perceptually melts with the
reference scheme, becoming invisible. Of particular interest are the
equivocal figures for which an identical configuration can alternatively
represent two different things, or the virtual threedimensional fig
ures perceived by looking in depth at specific bidimensional images
designed specifically for the purpose.
In a certain sense, the perceptual process might be considered
as the software of the neurophysiological sensory apparatus. We then
have an illustrative model for visual perception of image depth that
otherwise is not explainable solely in terms of the mechanics of the
visual apparatus. Its the filigree texture of perceived objects that
produces the sense of depth, exactly as when we look at a photograph
or a painting and take in its vanishing point.
The perceptive modifications induced by psychoactive agents
have to be thought of in terms of a wide range of factors acting in
synergy. They have been described as a retinal circus to emphasize
the variety and fullness of these experiences: the colors reach a maxi
mum saturation, macro- and micropsia are produced, as well as cen
esthetic sensory overlappings, optical illusions, and spatial distortions
of form. These effects are not necessarily of a hallucinatory nature if
the word is understood to mean a perception of purely endogenous
origin without an external source involved.
The illusions consist in equivocally perceiving figures which
arent equivocal, experiencing multiple perceptive interpretations of
simple everyday objects that stress even the ludicrous, as in infantile
physiognomy or in anthropomorphism. For example, LSD does not
always cause actual visual hallucinations, at least not with the eyes
open. On the contrary, it causes many plays of perceptual illusion
that is to say transformations of a reality datum taking as a starting
point perceptive details that take on additional meanings, or fuse
together, or produce inversions between figure and background.

Illusions and distortions as the source of some therianthropic

figures could therefore easily be an explanation at least as well founded
as the hallucinatory hypothesis, especially if we do not overlook cul
tural aspects linked to the mask, the intent to transform, hide, to
frighten, and could reproduce a viable shamanic reality.
LewisWilliams and Dowsons shamanic hypothesis shows itself
after all excellent for the entoptic interpretation of the first stage
graphic marks, but it becomes less valuable when one wishes to extend
it to other more complex representations. It has, however, been a rev
olutionary development in the interpretation of prehistoric rock art.

The Psychoactive Psychedelic Substances

The psychoactive substances found in nature are generally plants with

a short stalk and often of a succulent nature. Roots, seeds, leaves
and flowers, mushrooms, cacti...there are a great many, and the
archaeobotanical data leave little doubt about their archaic and
plurimillenary origins.
Their distribution is universal with the obvious exception of the
areas of perennial ice, and their use is likewise essentially universal
with the only proposed exclusion, which we consider unlikely, being
the Australian continent. For climatic reasons about 70 percent of
these substances are concentrated in Latin America, where their con
sumption was and is generally linked to magicalreligious rituals, cult
or therapeutic use, with the obvious exception of hemp, which also
lends itself to ludic and popular use.
The psychoactive, psychedelic substances we deal with in our
present context are solely those for which there is actual prehistoric
archaeobotanical evidence, or representations and direct or indirect
links to rock art for the time period extending roughly from the
EpiNeolithic to the beginning of the Iron Age. Some of these sub
stances are no longer used today, replaced by other more effective or
less dangerous ones from the point of view of their toxicity. As for
dangers of a psychopathological nature, they seem to be a risk only
in case of unauthorized use, outside of the ritualized and guided
contexts of community rules and the contribution of the specialist:
the shamanhealer.
It is hardly necessary to stress, but we shall nevertheless do so,
that these substances have little to do with the socalled drugs of

abuse. Their effects are in part unforeseeable, aspecific, and frequent

effective experience with them is not possible due to rapidly devel
oped tolerance. Any sort of clinical dependence is therefore excluded
and use for ludicrecreative purposes is mostly limited to the Western
cultural context that began as the socalled psychedelic revolution
of the 1960s, today of increasingly limited influence.
We will now consider in more detail some of these substances,
starting with Sophora secundiflora, a shrub or small tree indigenous to
warmtemperate tropical areas of both hemispheres.22 The plant has
a sweetishscented blueviolet flower, and bears scarlet seeds called
red beans or mescal beans, which were used by cults in Texas, New
Mexico, and Northern Mexico (the beans known in this region as
frijolito, frixolillo, or colorin). Various Indian tribes in fairly recent times
used this substance for divinatory purposes, sometimes in combina
tion with peyote, which subsequently replaced the Sophora bean com
pletely, consigning this latter to a decorative role.23
Near the end of the nineteenth century, the first alkaloid of
S. secundiflora was isolated and named sophorine. Further research
showed it to be identical to cytisine. Its molecular structure and
pharmacological effects have some similarity to those of nicotine.
The bean can certainly be considered as psychoactive and possibly
genuinely hallucinogenic since its use as such is historically certain
but today its mechanism of action is not clear. Some maintain the
possibility that the substance was used in association with long periods
without sleep or nourishment.
The same is valid for the seeds of Ungnadia speciosa catalogued
by Endlicher in 1833, known in Mexico as monillo and in Texas as
Mexican Buckeye. The seeds contain cyanogenetic compounds which
make them psychoactive but also very dangerous.
As we have just mentioned, the use of these two substances
has been supplanted by peyote, botanically known as Lophophora wil
liamsii. This small cactus is considered, rightly, as the most complex
and powerful of the natural psychoactive psychedelic plants. It is
a spineless succulent that grows alone or in little groups, with an
aboveground greenish roundshaped head on top of a conical root
about ten centimetres long. Small white or lavendercolored flowers
appear during the rainy season followed much later by oblong red
fruits. It grows widely in Mexico in hill and mountain desert places,
but recently some reports have sounded an alarm about its possible
extinction due to hunting during the past thirty years by rather

unecological psychonauts coming mostly from the nearby United

States. For ingestion the appropriately dried upper part is used.
In 1894, the German chemist Arthur Heffter succeeded in iso
lating some alkaloids from peyote, the most important being mesca
line. The alkaloid was later synthesized by the Czech Ernst Spth in
1919, and perhaps the most important research on the many aspects
of peyote, especially its use by New World aboriginals and cults, was
accomplished by the American anthropologist Weston La Barre.
According to Piomelli,24 a wellknown Italian researcher who
worked for a long period in the United States, the mushroom Amanita
muscaria is without doubt the most ancient (and we should add per
haps the most widespread) pharmacological agent that has ever been
used in religious and ritual primitive practices. The phylogenetic ori
gin of the flyagaric has been identified in the SiberianBeringian
region, corresponding moreover to the most ancient prehistoric repre
sentations. From there it would have been spread to North America
and Eurasia and then throughout the rest of the world. The habitat
of A. muscaria is most often among birches and conifers with which
it maintains a mycorrhizic relationship.
Approximately ninety to one hundred Amanita species have
been identified to date, of which only seventeen have been analyzed
through a complete chemical screening. As for the flyagaric, besides
the already known presence of isoxazoles, simple amino acids and
polypeptides, amavadina compound of the metal vanadiumwas
in 1972 found in very high concentrations, hundreds of times higher
than commonly found in other plants.
Thanks to researches carried out by Eugster and Takemoto,25
we know how the ibotenic acid of the flyagaric is transformed into
muscimol through the drying of the mushroom. The latter is at least
five times more pharmacologically active and the principal, if not the
only compound responsible for the flyagarics psychoactive effects.
These effects include psychomotor excitement, sensations of augment
ed physical strength, optical phenomena, and visions, after which a
period of deep sleep with strong oneiric activity follows.
The largest number of psychoctive mushrooms are found in the
genera Psilocybe, Panaeolus, and Gymnopilus, but all of these mush
rooms have in common the active principles psilocybin and psilocin,
alkaloids based on indole. These latter chemicals might be called
true psychedelics, along with mescaline (peyote) and some lysergic

acid derivatives, for they are capable of delivering NOSCs of a par

ticularly powerful nature without inducing such effects as delirium,
somnolence, hallucinations, confused speech...effects much more
common with toxic species. The large majority of the psilocybin
mushrooms grow in Central America, North America, and Europe,
in temperate and tropical regions. These agarics are generally small,
difficult to mistake for edible species, and are potently psychoactive
while being completely nontoxic. Their historicalcultural period of
use was that of the preColumbian evolved societies, the Aztecs and
Maya in particular.
Another type of psychoactive substance, a snuff called yopo, is
obtained from the seeds of Anadenanthera peregrina indigenous to the
Orinoco basin. A leguminous plant that can reach quite large dimen
sions, A. peregrina contains bufotenine and DMT, and in other Latin
American regions the variety colubrina is found. Often the powder
has other names, but most commonly it is known as cohoba and cebil.
Until 1955, Anadenanthera was a subclassification of Piptadenia, so it
is possible to find it in the literature still with this latter name.
Trichocereus pachanoi, known as San Pedro in Peru and agua
colla in Ecuador, is a large columnshaped and branched cactus that
contains a significant quantity of the mescaline family of alkaloids. It
grows naturally at an altitude between two and three thousand meters,
but it is also widely cultivated in the Central Andes. It can also
be commonly found in greenhouses and exotic gardens worldwide,
for it makes an excellent rootstock for grafting otherwise difficult to
grow cacti.
Other psychoactive uses of substances not usually classified in
this category include tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum, Nicotiana rustica)
and species from the genus Trichocline, known as coro in Quechua in
northern Argentina.
Each one of the abovementioned substances has its own set
of characteristics concerning effects and uses; nevertheless, there are
some psychoactive phenomena that seem to be of a general kind
and, within certain limits, define a common denominator. Researches
carried out in the 1950s with LSD provide strong suggestions in this
sense. LSD is a semisynthetic alkaloid but with strong links to natural
products since its precursor is produced from ergot, a parasitic fungus
of rye, and also since there are several species of Ipomoea whose seeds
contain psychoactive amides of lysergic acid very similar to LSD.

The Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof26 has been a pioneer in

LSD research and his experimental work in particular illustrates the
common phenomenology of the psychedelic experience. The entoptic
phenomena, the illusions and perceptive distortions we have discussed
above, are fully part of what are defined as abstract and aesthetic experi
ences. Grof provides for comparison a good number of important con
temporary painters who, without the use of psychoactive substances,
have portrayed a surreal and hallucinated image of the reality that is
an excellent example of entopic phenomena. The paintings of Mon
drian, Kandinski, Seurat, Van Gogh, but also of Matisse and Klimt,
are examples. The perceptive distortions, on the other hand, remind
one of the paintings of Picasso, Braque, and the Cubists in general.
Sooner or later, such altered sensory perceptions become emotion
ally associated and linked to actual events of ones life. LSD and other
psychedelics also have the ability to interrupt the continuity of time.
One perceives separated isles of experience, independent moments
of brief or long duration motivating one to live exclusively in the
here and now, losing all sense of the normally experienced flow of
time. Stanislav Grof has defined this kind of lived experience linked
to psychodynamic aspects as the COEX (COndensed EXperience), and
its in these stages that the good and bad of what we are can surface.
In the modified state of consciousness or NOSC, howeveras
overwhelming or radical as it may beit seems that there always
remains a part, even if small or reshuffled, of our ego that carries
out the function of observer of what happens and preserves ones
critical and rational ability. Nevertheless, it is possible that in cer
tain moments the ability is lost. This happens when the experience
becomes a complete fusion with what is perceivedwhen percep
tions, emotions, and lived experiences join around a central event
that unconditionally fills consciousness. This level of consciousness
is not always, or even frequently attained: according to Grofs map
of consciousness it is the transpersonal stage. The transpersonal experi
ences mature from an intense empathic sensitivity that allows one to
enter what is perceived, intuitively and with great speed catching
its unusual or extraneous and estranging aspects. Strange and impres
sive said Humphrey Osmond of the LSD experience, it was he who
coined the word psychedelic.
It isnt uncommon to come through this experience identifying,
even profoundly, with living persons, animals, plants and inanimate

objects, landscapes or elements of ones surroundings, atmospheric

phenomena, or unknown or difficult to place entities.
A further possibility is that during this kind of experience a total
involvement of consciousness induces sensations of an ecstatic kind
with a complete overcoming of the observerobserved dualism. The
result can be the experience of a genuine deathandrebirth of the ego.
From the early 1950s until 1973, Grof carried out about four
thousand group sessions with LSD, compiling a wide survey of experi
ences which he arranged according to a category defined by him as
transpersonal experiences.
In the ordinary state of consciousness, the individual is in a
spatialtemporal relation with the surrounding world, conscious aware
ness being shaped by the sensory exteroceptive and enteroceptive
apparatus. A body image of oneself in time and space, including the
memories of past experiences and the anticipation of possible futures,
exemplifies such ordinary consciousness.
The primary characteristic of transpersonal experiences lies in
the possibility to transcend these borders, either preserving ones
own identity, but in different times, forms, places, and contexts, or
with a loss of identity and a total identification with the conscious
ness of other beings or entities, outside the borders of the ego and
beyond spatialtemporal limitations. Examples of these phenomena
are: racial and collective experiences, phylogenetic experiences, expe
riences of encounters with superhuman spiritual entities, archetypal
experiences and mythological sequences, encounters with divinities,
universal symbols, intuitive knowledge, identification with plants and
the vegetal world, identification with animals, ancestral experiences,
awareness of the Universal Mind, etc.
In this phenomenology of the psychedelic, to which one has
to add Grofs Basic Perinatal Matrices (the personal imprinting of the
experiences of delivery and birth), the only stages dealing with prehis
toric evidence are the abstract and aesthetic experiences we find in rock
art. We think nevertheless that transpersonal experiences also belong to
a class of universal and collective experiences of phylogenetic nature
and that some of these experiences could be, within their structure,
beyond the historicalcultural reference frame, timeless phenomena
as is the dream, a psychic culturally oriented phenomenon, but also
an ancestral neurophysiological one that was born and evolved along
with the human race. Huxley writes:

Let us use a geographical metaphor and liken the personal

life of the ego to the Old World. We leave the Old World,
cross a dividing ocean, and find ourselves in the world of
the personal subconscious, with its flora and fauna of repres
sions, conflicts, traumatic memories and the like. Travelling
further, we reach a kind of Far West, inhabited by Jungian
archetypes and the raw materials of human mythology.
Beyond this region lies a broad Pacific. Wafted across it
on the wings of mescaline or lysergic acid diethylamide,
we reach what may be called the Antipodes of the mind.
In this psychological equivalent of Australia we discover
the equivalents of kangaroos, wallabies, and duckbilled
platypusesa whole host of extremely improbable animals,
which nevertheless exist and can be observed.27

This particular phenomenology leads us to a question which

in this field is the key question: Are the wideranging perceptual
changes caused by psychedelics merely the result of a mind/brain
transformation which itself induces fantasies, hallucinations, illusions,
and reality deformations, or do these substances in fact open the mind/
brain to an ability to penetrate into new and genuine dimensions
hidden from the ordinary state of consciousness...or perhaps, a
combination of the two aspects?
The question is neither more nor less than an old shamanic
subject, that of the two worlds overlapping, the night which walks
on the night, in the words of Artauds Tarahumara. The hidden
dimensions hypothesis is not then as science fiction as it might
initially appear. Dogs perceive ultrasounds that humans cannot hear,
bees see the ultraviolet light that humans cannot see, a gecko travels
indifferently along horizontal, vertical, and upsidedown surfaces and
must have a perception of the world very different from ours, a fly
sees our movements as if they were in slow motion...
We should add that various presentday intellectuals, certainly
not all as a result of psychedelic experiences, have asked the same
questions and responded favorably. Examples are Jung, Huxley, Capra,
Grof, and, more recently, the Dutch cardiologist Van Lommel, author
of remarkable researches on NDE (near death experience) in a wide
survey of patients who temporarily experienced interruption of all
vital signs of life.28

Origins of Shamanism

One of the most typical shamanic manifestations is the transformation

into the animalspirit, yet undoubtedly the most ancient archaeo
logical evidence on shamanism is characterized by the therianthrope,
the anthropozoomorphic being, half man and half animal. We will
consider the meaning of this strange entity later, with reference to
the relationship between psychology and rock art.
The most ancient therinathropic representation is a little ivory
statuette about 30 cm high found in 1931 in HohlensteinStadel on
the Swabian Mountains in Germany. it represents a lionman and
dates back to the Aurignacian epoch about 32,000 years ago. Other
therianthropes are located in Chauvet, Les Trois Frres, and Gabillou
in France, in MatalemAmazar and Aouanrhat in the Saharian Tassili,
in Eagles Reach in Australia, and Schaaplaats in South Africa. The
therianthrope is a feature of the general context of the Upper Pal
aeolithic and the representations found in the European FrancoCan
tabrian area, the shamanic nature of which is no longer in doubt.
The caves themselves are surely the material passages leading to
the lower stages of the shamanic cosmos. We are of the opinion that
the representations signify the shamanic power of transformation
and control over Nature. The bovines and horses, the more frequently
represented creatures, later domesticated, the human details (female
sexual organs and more rarely the male ones, hands, sometimes heads,
and indefinite silhouettes) represent projected partial objects in a
psychoanalytical sense, perhaps as an incomplete attempt on control
of sexuality. The hand symbology is linked to power and perhaps
to a kind of connection with Mother Earth, aimed at establishing
a principle of control to magically get hold of what in reality slips
through the fingers. The hands depicted on a horse in Cosquer and
around two other horses in PechMerle could express a magical desire
to touch, to be physically in touch with the living animal, in eve
ryday life a difficult feat.
The magical operation of the exercise of control is probably the
mental forerunner of the ability to domesticate bovines and horses,
which established evidence shows would be achieved only in the Neo
lithic. On an interpretative and probabilistic level, however, nothing
forbids the idea that some measure of domestication took place much

The presence of men with bird and deer masks in the cave of
Lascaux in Dordogne, typical of the shamanism of Northern Siberia,
is one of the best examples of the archaic shamanic presence. The
Sorcerer of Les Trois Frres is another.
Evidence of shamanic practices becomes more frequent begin
ning with the Late Neolithic period, and the first ethnographic docu
mentation of the phenomenon comes from the UralicSiberian area,
compiled by the rare European travelers who ventured, for different
reasons, into those areas beginning in about the year 1700.
The anthropomorphic figures located in the Tamgaly Valley in
Southeast Kazakhstan, about 170 km from AlmaAta, date back to the
second millennium BC. Petroglyphs with a solar head are numerous,
as are others linked to the horse. Their shamanic nature is first of
all defined by the figures physical characteristics, curiously dressed,
sometimes with a kind of identification with a representation of a
horses mane corresponding with the most recent ethnographic data,
just as there is a correspondence for the curious crosiershaped arms,
in the form of a pastoral staff, in the religious sense of the term.
The subject of transformation seems to find references in the
presence of parallel broken lines between two adjoining images which
in the subsequent panel show elements of magical change between
man and animal or a corresponding metaphysical entity. The breakage
is also a metaphor for the difficulties of the shift from one state of
consciousness to another and finds parallels in the phenomenology of
Grofs perinatal matrices. The experience brought about by Amanita
muscaria consumption provides a further example, as Rozwadowski

One of the more common reactions of individuals under

the influence of the hallucinogenic effect of this fungus was
the impression of making a great effort to squeeze their way
into a small crack, which appeared to them to be a door.
Other accounts more generally referred to an impression of
passing through various kinds of narrow openings.29

Association of the solar heads with the horse and sometimes

the bull seems to establish a connection with the IndoIranian popu
lations who inhabited these regions during the same period. Other
petroglyphs of great interest are located in the Sarmishsay Valley, on
the Nuratau Mountains, in central Uzbekistan, and in SaymalyTash

on the mountains of Kirghizstan, rich in typical entoptic geometric

motifs (zigzags, chains, interlacements, etc.).30 We must also include
the anthropomorphs drawn in the Altai tombs of the Karakol river,
dating from the second and third millennium BC. They are dressed
in paludaments clearly belonging to the Altai shamanic tradition and
associated funerary rituals.
Petroglyphs dating back to the Bronze Age frequently depict
shamans playing the typical harnessbell drum, and the same subject is
repeated along the central areas of the Yenisei and Lena rivers where
the socalled headgear shamans are present, often adorned with horns
or antennae and ornithomorphic motifs and, sometimes, with amulets,
bird bones, fish bones, etc. Truly remarkable is the presence of a Neo
lithic depiction of an eightlegged equine in Valcamonica (Foppe di
Nadro R27), that along with the Cernunnos (deermanNaquane
R70, Middle Iron Age) and other praying figures linked to the deer,
well represent the ancient shamanism of this extensive Italian site.31
The bronze masks of western Siberia found in Rybinskye and
Kulay in the Tomsk region date back to the Iron Age, between 600
and 800 BC (Fedorova in Price, 2001) and seem to refer to warri
orshamans, since the human features are mixed with those of aggres
sive animals such as the bear and predatory birds.
Around the seventh century BC,32 the Greeks too came into
contact with shamanic elements from Scythia and Thrace, and some
associated quasimythical personages: Abaris dispelled plagues and pre
dicted earthquakes, Aristea practiced trance and ubiquity, Ermotimus
ventured upon long travels of the soul to distant places, Epimenides
the Cretan was able to fast for long periods and so achieve psychic
translations, on his death his body covered itself with tattooed inscrip
tions. The myth of Orpheus is also clearly of shamanic origin: he was
of Thracian descent, charmed animals and birds with music, traveled
in the underworld in order to recover abducted souls, etc.
Eliade postulated that the cult of Odin, originating in Denmark
around the fourth century and spreading to the Scandinavian Pen
insula and then to the German peoples, also has many features in
common with shamanism. Odins steed, an eightlegged horse named
Sleipnir, leads his master to Hel, the underworld, and is a parallel
to typical Siberian shamanism. Odin is also able to change shape at
will and transform himself into a bird or wild animal, reach ecstasy
by separating body from soul, and Odins two ravens, Thought and
Memory, are very similar to birdshaped auxiliary spirits. Odin knew

and practiced seir (anglicized as seidhr), sorcery with which he could

foresee the future and cause death and disease. The seir, a primarily
female practice, provides for the use of a ritual costume, music, and
singing to reach ecstasy.
In all the examples we consider, the association of psychoac
tive substance use and shamanism (including other collective rituals
guided by an equivalent figure) is essentially a universal. Evidence of
this is derived from our knowledge of phenomena such as the curan
deros, medicinemen, magicians, sorcerers, thaumaturges, the Lappish
noaidi, the vegetalista in Latin America, etc., that have existed from
ancient times and nearly worldwide. The dream time shamanism
of Australia is perhaps the lone exception to the rule, or nearly so.
Paradoxically, (or perhaps not completely), the timeless dimen
sion of the dream time well illustrates a purpose for psychoactive
use in prehistory. If the here and now of the experience induced
by the substances is an oneiric overlapping on reality as we believe
it to be, it follows that this procedure is not a luxury of aesthetic
diversion. On the contrary, as the Australian aborigines teach, it is
an act aimed at immediate awareness, at tracing a direction, giving
a meaning to the personal and collective life. The procedure seeks
to establish coordinates, an order in the world.

Evolutionary Models

Lewis H. Morgan was one of the first to deal with possible evolu
tionary models of human existence since prehistoric times. He was
a versatile man, along with his contemporary Marx a proponent of
Historical Materialism, and was also well known for his ethnography
of the Iroquois native Americans and cofounding of The Order of
the Iroquois. He was also a politician in the Republican Party in the
state of New York.
According to Morgan, human history developed over three peri
ods: savagery, barbarism, and then civilization. He further divides these
three into seven stages, from lower savagery (men feed on fruits and
berries) through to civilization (use of the phonetic alphabet and
writing). In this scenario, the family has evolved through five stages:
(1) The consanguineous family, in which weddings occurred among
brothers and sisters; (2) The punalua family, in which the wedding

of brothers and sisters was prohibited; (3) The sindiasmian family, in

which the couples freely cohabited and split apart; (4) The patriarchal
family, in which the supreme authority was the male leader; (5) The
monogamous family, based on equality between male and female and
evolving into the unitary family clan. These successive stages occurred
because of the parallel forms of economic existence, from that of hunt
ers and gatherers to that of modern industrialization. Engels writes:

Communistic housekeeping, however, means supremacy

of women in the house; just as the exclusive recognition
of the female parent, owing to the impossibility of rec
ognizing the male parent with certainty, means that the
womenthe mothersare held in high respect. One of the
most absurd notions taken over from eighteenthcentury
enlightenment is that in the beginning of society woman
was the slave of man.33

During the barbarism period, corresponding actually to the Neo

lithic, the economic situation changed radically with the introduction
of cattle breeding and agriculture. The period marks the beginning of
the concept of private property and this imposes a change in family
structure since matrilineal heredity cannot assure the order of succes
sion in favor of the male offspring. Abolishing female descent and
the establishment of paternal hereditary rights completely changed
the situation, and resulted in converting the principal role of the
woman in the patriarchal family to a mere procreator of sons, with
all the contradictions we well know today since they come down to
us nearly intact.
The reconstruction of the natural history of the human species
feeds on few certainties and many suppositions, and so exists for the
most part as a series of probabilistic scenarios. In the hypothesis of
the evolutionary tree one proceeds by speciation, that is to say by
division and continuation of a new evolutionary stock that on the
occasion of one or more meaningful events, separates from the origi
nal one. One of these events, for example, was the domestication of
fire. As a possible characteristic of differentiation between H. sapiens
and hominids nearer to the animal model, the principle of neotenia is
proposed. An even minor change in the hormonal regulatory system
could have extended the period of youthful characteristics in man,

characteristics that an ape retains only in the first stages of life. A

protracted infancy would allow a greater possibility of learning and
strengthening of the familiar relations.
As a determinant evolutionary jump, language would have
been the consequence of the onset of an introspective and imagina
tive consciousness that externalized the primitive inner dialogue in
a highly competitive habitat until the great adaptive revolution of
the Upper Palaeolithic, marked by a high manufacturing ability in
making instrumental objects and by the first true manifestation of
the Self in rock art.
Planetwide colonization resulted in great physical distances
between the various human groups and it is probably at the root of the
manifold linguistic differentiation that from a common protolanguage
gave life to about seventeen main linguistic families able to generate
the five thousand different languages existing today:

The few still existing tribes of huntersgatherers (mainly

the Pygmies in Equatorial Africa, the Australian aborigi
nes and the Arctic indigenous populations, about thirty
populations in total out of the 5000 in the world) then
represent the precious vestiges of a Palaeolithic complex
social organization (small groups, interconnected, without
social hierarchies, without the idea of private property
and money, with an ethics based on the sacredness of the
environment which gives them life), they are the planetary
map of one of the many lost worlds which surface from
human diversity.34

Female and matrilineal predominance in these organizational forms,

originating as Engels suggested, are confirmed by material and theo
retical findings of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas.35
A Great Goddess or Mother Goddess would have been present
throughout Europe during the Neolithic period, which according to
Gimbutas should be backdated to at least 6500 BC for Southeastern
Europe (atal Hyk and the Balkans) and to 4500 BC for West
ern Europe. Other evidence on the cult of the Goddess during the
Bronze Age would be manifest in Cyprus, Crete, Sardinia, Sicily, and
Malta. The peaceful populations residing in a Europe run by women
would then have been progressively invaded by ProtoIndoEuropean

nomadic tribes coming from the Volga basin between 4300 and 2800
BC. These tribes, called Kurgans (tumuli or mounds), centred on
horse breeding, were well armed and highly patriarchal, and would
have gradually put an end to the Goddess cult and to matrilineal
The Goddess, also found in the animal forms of the bird and
snake, guardian of the family and the clan, dispensed life and death.
Gimbutas found traces of her presence in large quantities of arti
facts, pottery, and objects, but mostly in a great number of female
statuettes, often depicting maternity or the birthing process. Almost
always depicted with large breasts and buttocks,36 the quintessence
of these statuettes is the socalled Venus of Hohle Fels, which dates
back between 35,000 and 40,000 BP and was discovered in 2008 by
the archaeologist Nicholas Conard in Southern Germany.
It should be said that not all of the entire anthropoarchaeolog
ical mainstream has accepted Gimbutass theories, which do in fact
have some limitations. Various stylized and geometric representations
are more likely the result of entoptic phenomena not necessarily tied
to a female deity and, in general, the statuettes dont necessarily rep
resent a goddess. Moreover, the Kurgan invasions appear to have been
a phenomenon that was limited to the Balkans and occurred later
than what the author states. The deification of the archetype of the
Mother and its organized religious cult seems to be a later phenomena
(Greece, Egypt, etc.), or elsewhere located. Its more likely, however,
that in early Neolithic Europe, the mystery of conception, pregnancy,
and childbirth (issues clarified only in modern times!) provided more
than one reason to sanctify, respect, and hold in high consideration
the role of the female.
The English poet and writer Robert Graves arrived at con
clusions similar to Gimbutas but by way of a different route, and
much sooner, in 1948, through glottological analysis and considerable
knowledge of Gaelic and Greek myths. Something that his biogra
phies usually dont mention, however, is that Graves himself was a
discerning psychonaut with extensive knowledge of the use of psilo
cybin mushrooms (on which he wrote). These experiences certainly
influenced his life and his work. His was a White Goddess:

I write of her as the White Goddess because white is her

principal colour, the colour of the first member of her

moon-trinity...the New Moon is the white goddess of

birth and growth; the Full Moon the red goddess of love
and battle; the Old Moon the black goddess of death and

The cult of the Goddess in its many representations, corresponded,

according to Graves, to Natures cosmic cycles until the male god of
the tetragrammaton YHWH took her place, not only among the Jews
but also later in its Christian variant. The latter, through the centu
ries and as a result of migrations and conquests, arrived as far as the
AngloCeltic populations. The original spirit of the Goddess continu
ally resurfaces in the thrill that only authentic poetry can provide, as
it was in the poetry of the ancient bards who secretly sang her deeds.38
Riane Eisler, anthropologist, historian, and essayist, further
developed the above considerations in a book39 that was a great
editorial success and translated almost all over the world. From the
Upper Palaeolithic to the beginning of the Neolithic period, female
supremacy would have expressed itself in relatively peaceful mutual
social models of reciprocal assistance. This model would have then
been replaced by the ruler model characterized by an androcratic
patriarchy, a hierarchy of conflicting domination that is aggressive
and oppressive toward women. This structure reached its peak in
Judaism and Christianity through a metamorphosis of the myth, also
confirmed by Graves, as a timely substitution and falsification of pre
ceding narrative references.
In an upsetting of the basic principles of the world order as it
was known, in which the Goddess religious codes are reversed, the
Goddess survives in the background as wife, companion, or mother
of powerful ruler male divinities. Naturally, no one but McKenna has
explored the problem of the knowledge and handling of psychoactive
plants that, given the role of harvesting practiced by woman, must
necessarily belong to her.
To summarize, we now understand the full process of the pro
creation role in the continuation of the species, the implicit recogni
tion of the mother semper certa, a sound store of knowledge about
plants, the psychoactive substances therein, and their use in healing,
cognition, and nutrition. These are more than enough elements to
legitimately consider a female supremacy in the prehistoric epoch
such as to justify the subsequent flourishing of Divine Mothers and
White Goddesses as symbolic regulators of processes related to birth
and the cyclic transformation of nature.

Sites of the Research


To what extent, if any, has the psychedelic question played a part in

the analyses of the referential sciences in prehistoric studies? An over
view of what has been written seems to indicate that it has entered
on tiptoe as just another minor variable, one that is of no great
Simple reference to the ritual use of psychoactive substances
can elicit a strong negative prejudgment by most scholars, irrespec
tive of their field of study. There are a number of underlying reasons
for this, as will be indicated in the paragraph on the crisis of the
paradigm. Some reasons are cultural in their nature, others may well
result from an uninformed antidrug morality more appropriate for
a fundamentalist religious position than a scientific one.
In a regional review,1 Anati briefly cites seven or eight cases in
which rock art was unquestionably influenced by psychoactive sub
stances. He proposes the interesting viewpoint that the use of psy
choactives was particularly favored in huntergatherer and agricultural
societies that had developed a close relationship with the natural
plant biota, not only for medicinal products but also for food.
As previously noted for the shamanic hypothesis of Lewis
Williams and Dowson as well as other English scholars (Chippendale,
Bradley, Dronfield, etc.), it is the AngloSaxon School that has shown
a greater interest in these phenomena, drawing conclusions of a gen
eral nature on the importance of NOSCs, however induced, in the
creation of rock art.2 The American scholar D. S. Whitley, curator of
a massive anthology of Rock Art, agrees with this outlook.


The American Colorado Plateau

There can be no doubt that 99 percent of the psychoactive substances

currently found in nature are of very ancient origin and were identi
fied and used from the most remote of times. The origin of the current
aboriginal use of a substance such as ayahuasca, for example, obviously
goes back to the dawn of prehistory, despite the fact that so far we
have no archaeological or other evidence that can furnish us with
scientific proof of the hypothesis. The same situation holds for the
modern use of iboga in the Gulf of Guinea. We have therefore decided
to choose for the present exploration just a few sites and a specific
period of time, from the EpiNeolithic to the beginning of the Iron
Age (6000 BCcirca 900 BC). The choice therefore excludes other
historical sites, even those going far back in time on which much has
already been written. Examples of the latter are the use of Psilocybe
mushrooms in the preColumbian area, or Wassons studies on the
Soma, or Hofmann and other researchers of the Eleusinian mysteries.
Let us begin with one of the most interesting areas in this
regard, the southwestern United States, comprised of the socalled
Colorado Plateau and the Mohave Desert. Its geology consists primar
ily of quaternary deposits, volcanic and sedimentary rocks. The states
involved are California, Utah, Nevada (Great Basin) and Colorado,
New Mexico, Texas, Arizona. Much of the rock art found in this
area seems to belong to the epoch of archaic huntersgatherers. For
these examples, no doubt remains regarding their close relationship
to NOSCs of shamanic origin. With the aid of animal spirits and
talismans, and no matter how induced, the shamans purposes were for
healing, witchcraft, control of the weather, clairvoyance. The corporal
transformations depicted in the rock art denote a particular relation
ship with death, with the magic flight, with battles, transmigration,
and sexuality.
The landscape, rich in caves, canyons, clefts, enormous rock
shelters, and mountain peaks, lends itself particularly well to symbolic
exchanges with the supernatural where the iconography on the rock
serves as the entrance, the gateway. We will later consider some of
these majestic sites3 concerning whether or not psychoactive sub
stances can be directly identified. Their universal use, we believe,
is not the least in doubt. After all, there is evidence from historical
times (circa AD 1100) for the use of Datura meteloides (inoxia) among
the Chumas and the Pueblo, aside from the substances cited below.
S ites of the research / 43

Regarding the previously mentioned Mescal Bean cult, traces

of the bean were found in twelve caves and rock shelters in south
western Texas, of which eight were in Val Verde County, near the
confluence of the Pecos River and the Rio Grande. Four others were
in Edwards Plateau east of the Pecos River.4 The first finds date to
1933, subsequently radiocarbon dated to between 7500 BC and AD
200. In the shelter near Comstock, Ungnadia seeds were found mixed
with the beans, while peyote was present in two of the sites, Shumla
Cave 5 (5195 BC 20) and Fields Shelter.5
The numerous pictographs in the Pecos River area have been
interpreted as representations connected with hunting cults associated
with various animals, including the deer and the mountain lion. Other
finds of Sophora associated with Ungnadia, subsequently reported by
other researchers in the TransPecos Texas area,6 were in the Frightful
Cave site, Fat Burro Cave, Fate Bell Shelter, Coontail Spin, Zopilote
Cave, Eagle Cave, and Bonfire Shelter where the oldest C14 dating of
Sophora, 8440 BC, was identified in the strata known as Bone Bed.
It was Carolyn Boyd7 who made a connection between the peyote
cult and some of the imposing pictographs of the Lower Pecos. The
sites of what has been denominated as the Pecos River Style include
the White Shaman Site, Panther Cave and the Fate Bell Shelter
in Seminole Canyon, Black Cave in Pressa Canyon, and the Cedar
Springs Shelter near Devils River. Their time range falls between
4200 BC and 2950 BC. Although no ethnographic data exists on
the original populations, even to this day ritual peyote use is known
to be present in this Mexican border area.
Dr. Boyd has discovered many interesting stylistic and icono
graphic connections between the pictographs and contemporary
Huichol peyotism. Numerous impaled deer, dot motifs, anthropo
morphic figures with antlers, and other ramifications, by themselves
or decorating anthropomorphic figures and animals, appear in vari
ous contexts. Sacred symbols related to peyote, the deer, and corn,
seen as inseparable, are an integral part of the Huichol religion. The
peyote ritual culminates in the annual pilgrimage to Wirikuta where
the magic cactus is gathered. The pilgrims walk in single file and in
the pictographs the anthropomorphic figures are depicted in single
file, shown, as in real life, with torches to light the way. The meta
morphosis of the anthropomorphic figures into zoomorphic or other
enigmatic figures recalls the symbolic transformation of the pilgrims
into spirits or similar creatures during the peyote hunt. The white

line joining the five anthropomorphic figures in the White Shaman

site could refer to the fiber rope that joins the Huichol shamans in
the purification rites. The antlers on the head of the first figure are
decorated with black dots, which resemble the peyote button depicted
by the Huichol as their divine ancestor Kauyumari. This anthropo
morphic figure armed with an atlat or spear thrower calls to mind
the shamanleader who wears Kauyumaris antlers and hunts the first
deer/peyote with his weapons. The impaled black dots are analogous
to these two phenomena. These themes appear with a few variations
in the other abovementioned sites.
Other sites in the southwestern United States are equally spec
tacular in size, color, and subjects depicted. Although they contain
no direct or indirect evidence for the use of psychoactive substances,
the oneiric or frankly psychedelic visionary nature of the pictograms
is obvious. This is the case, for instance, with Sego Canyon and
Barrier Canyon in Utah, where the ghostly anthropomorphic figures
with empty eyes and antennas were frequently interpreted as pre
sumed aliens. The anthropomorphic figures in the Upper Dinwoody
site in neighboring Wyoming are similar to those in the rock art of
the Coso Shoshones in California, studied by LewisWilliams. These
Mir style depictions bring to mind the Tadpole Figure People
phase of childrens drawings, with a very large head on a small body.
Practically all of the rock art of the American southwest is character
ized by its visionary nature, not always the case elsewhere, with regard
neither to size nor to number of examples.

Latin America

The archaic depictions and handmanufactured artifacts found in Lat

in America may not be as spectacular as the rock art of the American
southwest, but they are just as visionary. A considerable number of
archaeological objects testify to the use of psychoactive substances,
above all snuff.8 Northeastern Argentina is particularly rich in this
sense. Residues of yopo were found in two tubular snuff pipes dated to
2130 BC9 in the Inca Cueva site in the northwest of Humahuaca at
an altitude of 3860 meters, on the border with the province of Jujuy.
Another pipe dated 620 BC 80 was found in the El Piquete site
in the same province, while in the Huachichocana cave mortars for
S ites of the research / 45

the preparation of psychoactive substances and four decorated stone

pipes were found in a shamanic burial site of a fifteenyearold male
dating to around 1400 BC. Paintings in various colors found in small
caves around the outlying borders of the Sierra de Ancasti, Catama
rca, bear witness to shamanic initiations with the use of psychoactive
substances. Anadenanthera still grows abundantly in the area.10 The
petroglyphs of the Laguna Blanca site, Catamarca province, dated to
around 300 BC, are of particular note. They show various anthropo
morphic figures smoking large pipes.
Snuffing paraphernalia consists of stone or wooden tablets,
sometimes with forked nasal prongs, bone or wood tubes with forked
endings, occasionally for one nostril only (tabletas, tubos, zoolithos),
undecorated or frequently depicting zoomorphic divinities. One of
the oldest snuff tubes comes from the Chicama Valley site in Peru,
near Huaca Prieta, associated with a funeral of the period in which
Guaape pottery was used, thus allowing a correct dating estimated
at around 1200 BC.
Other significant finds come from throughout Latin America,
in Costa Rica, in the Mochica culture in Peru, in Tiahuanaco, the
preInca period at Santa Maria Miramar south of Mollendo, in Chi
uchiu and Changos on the Coast of Antofagasta in Chile, in Sucuruju
and in S. Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and lastly in
Mercedes in Uruguay. Two snuff tubes in bird bone and two trays
dated 1000800 BC were found in the Playa de los Gringos and
Quiani sites in the archaeological region of Arica in the far northern
part of Chile.
Other researchers11 have noted archaeological evidence for the
use of mescaline from the San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi) in
the central Andes in the preceramic site of Las Aldas (20001500
BC), in the Garagay site of the Formative Period (1643879 BC),
and in depictions on pottery of that time for the Cupisnique and
Chavin cultures. At Chavn de Huantar (1000 BC) a petroglyph on
a stele depicts a shaman carrying a fourribbed cactus branching. In
the local temple the features of a therianthropicfeline bald head
show evident signs of psychoactive drug effects: dilated pupils and
nasal mucous secretions. The jaguar Felis onca is frequently associ
ated with the San Pedro cactus. Both Anadenanthera and San Pedro
together with the jaguar are clearly depicted on a textile artifact from
the Chavin site dating to two thousand years ago.12

Glowacki notes the possible ritual use of Spondylus in the Andine

area.13 The calcifer and princeps species have been identified in archae
ological finds dating to between 3000 and 2,500 years ago. Spondylus
is a rather toxic bivalve mollusk but when appropriately prepared has
clear psychoactive properties. An interesting rock painting mentioned
by Anati14 is at the Piaui site (Toca da Extrema II, Brazil), one of the
oldest sites in South America. In the painting we see twelve ithyphal
lic male figures stretching out their arms in adoration of a plant with
probable hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac properties. Possible evidence
of the archaic use (ca. 2000 BC) of ayahuasca is provided by the
exceptional petroglyphs of Pusharo, in the Peruvian southeast, made
by ancestors of the aboriginal Matsiguenkas populations.15
In the Ecuadorian culture of Bahia de Caraquez,16 more than
one anthropomorphic figurine of a shamanic type is shown drink
ing what is probably a psychoactive brew from a special bowl while
other figures show evident signs of facial expressions altered by the
substances assimilated. In the Valdivia culture in Ecuador, one of the
oldest in Mesoamerica (ca. 3500 BC), pottery iconography indicates
that the use of psychoactive substances in psychopompic rituals was
highly likely.17 Wassons famous mushroom stonesinspired by psy
choactive rituals with psilocybin mushroomswere first discovered
by the archaeologist De Borhegyi.18 Many of these small sculptures
were found in the Verbena cemetery of the archaeological site of
Kaminaljuyu, near Guatemala City.
The oldest (Type B, Early and Late PreClassic Maya period,
between 1000 BC and AD 200) are also from this site. Zoomorphic
nocturnal divinities are depicted on the stem. Nineteen finds of pot
tery with incised depictions of frogs or toads were found in socalled
Tomb I, Mound EIII3. The toad is a fairly widespread graphic sym
bol in Maya and Olmec iconography19 and seems to be connected to
the fact that some types of toads (Bufo marinus, Bufo alvarius) exude
powerful psychoactive substances from their glands, in particular bufo
tenine and DMT. So far, the finds of various kinds that bear witness
to the archaic use of psychoactive substances in Latin America are
of relatively recent date, with a formidable acceleration of finds in
historical times. It has been estimated by induction that in the central
Andean area at least 2022 percent of the adult population used snuff
between the third and tenth century AD. Presumably, above all in
Brazil and the Amazon areas, a significant number of sites, finds and
depictions are still waiting to be discovered.
S ites of the research / 47

Tassili in the Sahara Desert

In 1988, the Bolognese Giorgio Samorini, eclectic selftaught research

er, ethnobotanist, and great traveler/explorer, rediscovered the Tassili
paintings in the Sahara Desert. His new interpretation of these paint
ings concerned the archaic Round Heads Period (70005000 BC),
originally discovered by the French ethnologist Henri Lhote in the
1950s. In the authors words:

According to Anati, this art was produced by early

huntergatherers during the late Pleistocene and early
Holocene periods. Analogous examples dating back nearly
to the same period are to be found in various sites around
the world (Sahara Desert, Tanzania, Texas, Mexico etc.).
These areas were later to became arid or semiarid when
the lakes and rivers dried up. From the many works of art
these peoples have left us we learn that they were gather
ers of wild vegetal foods: people who lived in a sort of
garden of Eden and who used mindaltering substances.
Sansoni too is of the opinion that it might be that the
works of art of the Round Heads Period are the creations
of normal consciousness or the results of particular ecstatic
states associated with dance or the use of hallucinogenic

And farther on,

One of the most important scenes is to be found in the

Tin-Tazarift rock art site, at Tassili, in which we find a
series of masked figures in line and hieratically dressed or
dressed as dancers surrounded by long and lively festoons
of geometrical designs of different kinds. Each dancer
holds a mushroomlike object in the right hand and, even
more surprising, two parallel lines come out of this object
to reach the central part of the head of the dancer, the
area of the roots of the two horns. This double line could
signify an indirect association or nonmaterial fluid passing
from the object held in the right hand to the mind. This
interpretation would coincide with the mushrooms and
vegetals, which is often of a mystical and spiritual nature.21

The other representation, one that has traveled all over

the world, consists of two anthropomorphic figures, one at
MatalemAmazaar and the other at InAouanrhat. Mushroom sym
bols, apparently psilocybin species, outline the body and also are
held in the hands. According to Samorini, these two figures with
insectlike heads and scaly skin could be images of the mushroom
spirit of a shamanic nature. The same fungus motifs appear in the
TinAbouteka shelter and in that of Uan Muhuggiag in the Tadrart
Acacus in Libya, in association with other, smaller anthropomorphic
figures. Pollen analyses and data regarding climatic variations show
that environmental conditions at that time were perfectly compatible
with the development of fungi.
Samorinis hypotheses have been accepted by the scientific
community and recently22 further confirmation thereof is provided
by another painting in the TinMoussa site: a mythical animal that
seems to have mushroom symbols on its tail and head. In Uan Telo
cat in Libya we find another depiction where a small mushroom is
located above the head of a small human figure, in the style we shall
subsequently see in the Pegtymel. It must be borne in mind that while
Samorini was unquestionably the first to realize the ethnomycological
importance of the Tassili paintings, the same conclusions were drawn
at almost the same time by the previously mentioned McKenna.23 He
also hypothesized later connections, still to be demonstrated, between
the Round Heads civilization, predynastic Egypt, and the Palestinian
Natufian culture. As for Africa, which may still hold many surprises,
mention must be made of the pictographs of Tanzania (Cheke, Pahi,
Kisese, etc.).24 Their monstrous, fantastic, and surreal characteristics
led Anati to believe they were made by populations of the archaic
huntergatherer period under the influence of psychoactive substances.

FarEastern Siberia

Archaeological evidence regarding the petroglyphs in midcentral

Siberia and the north of fareastern Siberia is described in part in
literature that is in Russian and difficult to find. Andrei Golovnev
has produced an anthropological documentary film25 explaining the
engravings along the Pegtymel river, but before considering his views
it is necessary to closely examine the ethnographic aspects26 of the
ritual use of Amanita muscaria among the peoples of that area.
S ites of the research / 49

Many peoples and cultures are involved: the Khanty, Nganasan, Ket,
Chukchi, Koryak, Itelmen, the Eskimos, and Russians living in Koly
ma, Chuvanians, and Yukagir. Saar has identified four broad sectors
of use: sacred and magical activities, epic recitation, the effect upon
physical stamina and work abilities, and narcotic use.
The first sector involves communication with the souls of the
dead, with the spirits, for healing and for guidance on how to escape
from dangerous situations, for the interpretation of dreams, the divina
tion of the past and future, and for visits to other worlds. Clairvoyance
and other information are received through anthropomorphic spir
its of the flyagaric known as manikins or mushroom spirits, which
depict, often in incomplete or approximate form, a mushroomman
who communicates with the shaman or with the person who has
consumed the Amanita in that context. The manikins anthropomor
phic but indeterminate form well represents the second hallucinatory
stage iconic forms described by LewisWilliams and Dowson in their
famous article.27
In cases that require physical performance such as hunting, run
ning, or long hikes Amanita seems to increase stamina and strength,
similar in its effects to amphetamines. There are also reports of
increased affability and good humor, euphoria, visual and auditory
hallucinations, and oneiric activity. Naturally, considerable variation
of effect occurs according to the amount and quality of the flyagaric

Figure 2.1. Pegtymel, anthropomorphic fungal figures (FarEastern Siberia)


consumed and the predisposition of the user. Before the trance and
prior to the actual ceremony, for example, the shaman focuses his
mental powers in a solitary ritual preparation during which there
is an exchange between the mental realm and the cognitive maps.
According to Krippner, the shaman lives in a context of selfgenerated
interior imagery and an exterior world in which the symbolic mate
rial is constantly present. Moreover, his audience plays an important
part in how long the trance lasts and how profound it is. Thus, with
out imposing contemporary historicalethnographic elements on the
archaeological data, it can legitimately be supposed that the meanings
of the petroglyphs are quite in line with such a shamaniccultural
Anthropoids armed with a bow and with what is probably a
medicine pouch at the waist have been identified in the first28 of
the two relevant sites along the Yenisei river, between the Sajanskij
ravine and the OrtaaSargol hill. Dating to the Bronze Age, these
hominids have a large hat instead of a head, sometimes with warts,
supported by what looks more like a stem than a neck. This, as well
as their relative similarity to the figures of the second site along the
Pegtymel river, a few meters from the water and circa 60 km from the
outlet to the sea, led to their being called mushroom men. Dikov29
identified about thirtyfour human figures at the latter site. They are
prevalently female, one with long earrings, and each with an explicit
and unmistakable mushroom, unquestionably an Amanita muscaria,
over, but almost never in direct contact with their heads. Probably
dating to Neolithic times, Dikov believes that they were made by
protoEskimo populations prior to the arrival of the Chukchi. The
figures seem to be moving forward while the presence of the mush
room in relation to the head once more brings to mind, as with the
Tassili figures, the psychoactive effects of the mindaltering substance.
From the beautiful short film by Andrei Golovnev, Russian
director and archaeologist, it can be inferred that in Chukotka, where
the Chukchi generically call the flyagaric wapak, consumption of the
substance is now limited to initiates except for the ritual feast day of
Mnegyrgyn, when anyone may consume it. Moreover, the inhabitants
of these places have no doubts as to the significance of the petro
glyphs, considered intimately connected to their origins. A. muscaria
is of such importance to these peoples that three different names are
used to describe its stages of growth. When the mushroom is still a
S ites of the research / 51

button it is called kylik, when completely mature with the cap begin
ning to flatten it is ryrytylyn, when the first cracks appear it becomes
kakynton. There also seems to be an archaic bond between the Ama
nita and the whale, represented frequently near the human figures at
this site. An ancient myth30 recounts that Big Raven, a cultural hero
among these populations, captured a whale that he then wanted to
return to the sea. Unable to do so, he asked Vahiyinin (Existence)
for help and was told to eat the wapak, and the mushroom would
give him the strength he needed to take the whale back to the sea.
This hints at a connection to the physical stamina provided by the
substance in relation to hunting activities.

Figure 2.2. Swedish ships and Danish shaver with fungal images

Europe and the New Sites

Until the end of the 1980s scholars of the psychedelic field prac
tically ignored Europe almost as if it there were a complete lack
of documentation of shamanic activities of any type, historical or
While the solanacea31 such as Datura stramonium, Atropa bella
donna, Mandragora, del Giusquiamo, and Amanita muscaria were known
to exist widely in Europe, there are also at least thirty or more spe
cies of Psilocybe mushrooms, including the widespread P. semilanceata.
The first reference to the relationship between rock art and
manmade objects and Amanita muscaria was in the Scandinavian
area32 with two ships engraved on two rocks in bi, Bohusln, in
Sweden. There are numerous engravings of this type in the area.
Three mushroomlike images interpreted by Kaplan as Amanitas are
on each of these two ships. Together with other symbolic motifs they
referred to an ancient Sun cult. Ships associated with the mushroom
motif also appear on seven bronze razors found in Denmark (Hon
unSkanderborg and NustrupfeldNorschleswig). They all belong to
the period between 1100 and 700 BC.33 It was pointed out by Fagg34
that four of the six mushrooms on stone may have been depicted in
crosssection in a technique known in rock art as Xray drawing.
This observation was accepted by Kaplan. While this Xray technique
is particularly widespread in Australia, every so often it appears more
or less everywhere and consists in depicting principally zoomorphic
figures with their internal organs or parts of them showing as if they
had been Xrayed or dissected. More will be said later concerning
this curious phenomenon.
There are no reasons to deny the validity of Kaplans interpreta
tion, but pending new finds of similar type this hypothesis will remain
intrinsically weak. In this case too there are, however, contemporary
ethnographic references to the shamanic use (noaidi) of A. muscaria
among the Inari population in Finnish Lapland, near Lake Inari.

With regards to the power of magic, the custom of the

Siberian shamans of eating muscaria to achieve ecstasy
has been noted; in the ObUgric ritual three or seven
mushrooms are eaten each time. It is interesting to note
that in the tradition of the Reindeer Lapps of Inari the
story is told of the Lapp magic in which the muscaria (with
seven spots) was eaten.35
S ites of the research / 53

A decidedly speculative hypothesis concerns a text by Samuel

dman36 of 1784 regarding the possible use of the Amanita by the
Berserk Viking warriors, around AD950 (hypothesis refuted by Was
son). These warriors were known for their fury in battle. The Turin
physician Vittorio Pico was one of the first to return to this subject.
In 1788 he wrote:

The Illustrious President [of the academic assembly] has

observed that the Agarico Muscario taken in small doses
provokes a state of euphoria similar to intoxication and
Edmannus [dman] deduced that with this the Boreal
Heroes of ancient times provoked that rage under whose
stimulating effect the Viking generals attacked the multi
tudes of enemies, no matter how great, the Bersekars not in
the least preoccupied by serious dangers, by fire and arms.37

Little doubt, however, surrounds the identification of a single

example of A. muscaria in the late 1990s by a hiker in the Val Roia38
in France. It was discovered among a number of petroglyphs on the
famous Roccia del Capo Trib in the enormous complex of Mont Bgo
in the Valle des Merveilles on the border with Italy, between the
Cozie and Maritime Alps. This large rock is so important that it was
moved to the Tenda museum from its natural site to protect it from
vandalism. These depictions have been dated by Henry de Lumley,
one of the leading experts in the world of rock art and custodian of
the Valle des Merveilles site, at around 1800 BC. There are explicit
details in addition to the obviously fungal shape. The dots on the cap
and the ring below, on the stem (typical of the Amanitas), make the
image almost photographic. Other images on the rock are a steplad
der, daggers, a small orant figure and a larger anthropomorph with
a bovine head traced on his breast and an object stuck in the head
interpreted as a dagger but more probably the symbol for a bolt of
lightning. It is the Chief of the Tribe or more likely a shaman offi
ciating an initiation rite, by some interpreted as connected to Vedic
Around 80 km farther north from Mont Bgo is the extraordi
nary and littleknown Italian site of Roccias Fenestre on Monte Roc
cer separating Val Maira and Val Varaita. In 1991, two enthusiasts
of rock art, Baldi and Ponzo, counted around 3,200 cup marks, semi
spherical cavities incised on large boulders, varying in size from a few
centimeters to 1015 cm in diameter and rather shallow. The site

is in the shape of an amphitheater. Around thirty small cup marks

on an enormous central rock overhanging the valley below suggest
a dancing anthropomorph who seems to be holding a spear or staff.
The possibility cannot be excluded that in the Late Neolithic period
an officiant directed rites from the central position marked by the
Recently (2010), another seven hundred cup marks were discov
ered around 500 m from the previous site. A natural outcropping of
the rock clearly refers to the male genital organs of another anthro
pomorphic figure in this depiction. The sites characteristics thus seem
to confirm the hypothesis of a fertility rite, as noted below.
A hypothesis of mine40 is that the oldest cup marks on the west
ern Alpine arc were altars/dryers in which large quantities of Amanita

Figure 2.3. Anthropomorphic figureMount Roccer (Piedmont, Italy)

S ites of the research / 55

muscaria were ritually dehydrated to preserve them for later use. If this
hypothesis is confirmed might there not then have existed an ancient
Neolithic cult connected to the use of Amanita in an area of Europe
for which there are no ethnographic or paleontological data on the
resident populations?41 The numerous similar sites in the Alpine arc
include Rocio Veglio near La Ruata di Pramollo (TO), Pera Crevol
and Roca dle Faie in Val di Susa, Roch Malgn di Riviera and boulder
n. 14 in Zubiena (Biella), and an enormous number of lesser rocks and
with fewer cup marks. It should be noted that the cup marks continue
up to the Iron Age and also appear in other European areas,42 Scan
dinavia, the Baltic republics, and to a lesser extent in other locations.
Still to be considered is the question of the sacred stones.
There is no scarcity of apparent references in such sculpture to A.

Figure 2.4. Statuestele Filetto I (Tuscany, Italy)


muscaria, unquestionably the great Eurasian psychoactive inductor of

NOSCs. The first reference concerns the socalled Paleolithic Venuses,
usually interpreted as figurines connected to female fertility, prototypes
of the Mother Goddess, or simply atavistic ancestors. The most famous
is without doubt the Viennese Venus of Willendorf, presented by
the author43 together with the head of the Grimaldi figurine in Italy
and that of Bedeilac in France. The heads dimensions and above
all the curious protuberances decorating them seem to refer to A.
muscaria in the early phase of maturation when the ballshaped cap
of the mushroom adheres to the stalk. These examples could also
be compared to the anthropomorphic representations of the Siberian
mushroomvision manikins. While this hypothesis may seem to be
somewhat farfetched, it does fall into the realm of the possible, just
as some of the rune stones associated with Odin found in Lrbro in
Gotland, Sweden, are unquestionably in the form of mushrooms.44
In Italy, we also have an interesting sculptural panorama in what
are known as the statuestelae of the Lunigiana, a sparsely inhabited

Figure 2.5. Statuestele Filetto VIII (Tuscany, Italy)

S ites of the research / 57

area between Liguria and Tuscany. The first was found in 1827 in the
locality of Nov, in Zignago, in the province of La Spezia. The most
recent finds date to 2001 in the municipality of Mulazzo. Altogether
there are around seventyfive statuesstelae, most of which are from
Pontremoli and La Spezia.
The heads on the ten statues found in Filetto I and VIII,
Taponecco, Malgrate II and IV, Minucciano III, Verrucola, Sorano II,
Groppoli I and III are unusual and have often been described as half
moon, Napoleons hat, carabinieres hat, etc., but oddly enough no one
has seen them as mushrooms. Originally there must have been many
more statues with heads of this type but various outbreaks of icono
clasm before and during the Christian era destroyed what was consid
ered their most significant part, since many were found decapitated.
In 1997 I visited these sites with my friend Gilberto Camilla,
also a researcher in the psychoanthropologic discipline. We agreed
that the statuestelae could be considered anthropomorphic mushroom
statues. One of the reasons why this had never been taken into con
sideration might have been the fact that figuratively they are exclu
sively twodimensional. The threedimensional element, the thickness
of the statue, is simply a technical artifice so that the figure can stand
upright but has no artistic significance. Seen frontally, either in a
photo or in real life, an Amanita type mushroom does look strikingly
like the Napoleonic hat mentioned above.
In some examples a melancholy face is summarily sketched out
on the hathead. Generally, the body is more or less rectangular and
legless. The arms, when present, are shown in low relief on the rect
angle, at times with a dagger and/or a digging tool. These squat
compact figures once again are reminiscent of the Siberian mushroom
manikins. Many other sculptures, earlier than the ten listed, bring
to mind the newborn Amanita, when the head and the stem or
stalk are a single unit. See in particular the eight statuestelae of the
Pontevecchio group found in 1905. The oldest of these statue-stelae
date to around 3200 BC and they continued to be manufactured into
Etruscan times. The latest ones, however, have different character
istics, more like realistic statues with rounder heads, probably a sign
of a change in meaning.
Anati writes as follows:

It is not to be excluded that what we have here is a phe

nomenon of a universal religion that spread like wildfire

throughout Europe in the late fourth millennium B.C. It

can be compared to what happened in the late first mil
lennium A.D. with Islam, which brought a good word
to many peoples in the Near East and Africa and which
was swiftly assimilated.45

The following passage also seems significant to me:

The statuestelae movement really got under way and

developed in the classic phase, at the end of the fourth
and during the third millennium B.C. Subsequent expan

Figure 2.6. Laxe dos Gebros (Galicia, Spain)

S ites of the research / 59

sions were immense. Perhaps as early as the third millen

nium B.C. and certainly in the early second millennium
B.C. the iconography and ideology connected with the
statuestelae spread into Siberia, up to the shores of the
Pacific. Thousands of the famous kamenyia babouschka are
scattered throughout the valley of the Jenisei river. (Ibid.)

The kamenyia babouschka, known also as Kamennaya Baba (in Russian

), are also found here and there throughout the Urals
and some really resemble the Lunigiana stelae, except for the head,
which is not mushroomshaped but in some cases decidedly phallic.

Figure 2.7. Examples of spirals in Neolithic Rock Art


In Italy,46 a probable mushroom depiction (Psilocybe semilancea

ta?) was recently reported in the Balma di Mondon site in Val Pellice
(CoziePiedmont Alps) in a painting dating to around 3000 BC in
which a few classic grid motifs are also found.
Lastly, mention must be made of a suspect stone in Fentns,
Pontevedra, in Galicia, known as Laxe dos Gebros, part of the rich
find of petroglyphs in this part of Spain, many on flat rocks barely
above ground. The motifs on this rock, dated like the other works
between 3000 and 2000 BC, include deer, a few motifs interpreted as
labyrinths, concentric circles, etc. Frequently the latter have a stalk
reaching to the center of the circles and ending in a round swelling,
in one case with branches, all in clear mushroom shapes. The pos
sibility of considering this figure as an Amanita in the first stage of
maturation depicted in the Xray technique is not unfounded. Indeed,
the Amanita cap seen in crosssection is quite like a stylized image of
this type. Moreover, the deer facing it are known to be particularly
fond of this mushroom.
It should not be forgotten that opium poppy seeds dating to
the chalcolithic period were found in the Buraco da Pala site in
northern Portugal, not far from Galicia. Fossil opium poppy seeds
have turned up in around thirty sites in Switzerland.47 In the Iberian
peninsula fourteen sites with an archeobotanical presence of Papaver
setigerum and somniferum48 have been identified, dating from the upper
Paleolithic to the Bronze Age. The question therefore arises as to
the possible visionary and oneiric use of opiates, it being understood
that they were used principally for medicalanalgesic purposes and for
food (oil). The abovenamed authors tend to exclude this possibility
while others49 maintain that in a few limited cases there may have
been a ritual and initiative use of this substance. At least no doubts
exist concerning the Poppy Goddess found in the Gazi sanctuary in
Crete, dating to 1300 BC. Personally, I believe opiates may also have
been used to produce oneiric NOSCs. Certain divisions in categories
are valid for contemporary scientific points of view but there is no
reason why they should have been so in the past, in particular the
far distant past. Moreover there is no doubt that opiates can act on
the trophotropicmeditative calm front in Fischers model.50
In Spain, the Pla de Petracos site in the Mediterranean hinter
land between Valencia and Alicante is of note. The eight pictograms
in red date to 6000 BC. They are rather oddly located in special
niches a few meters across, and generally represent anthropomorphic
S ites of the research / 61

figures. Experts believe this is one of the oldest European sites con
nected with agricultural populations, probably inspired by the use of
psychoactive substances,51 of which there are, however, no conjectures
as to the identity of the inductor.
The style of these motifs and others in the area is known as
macroschematic and is thought to be connected to fertility cults, female
divinities, and the Mother Goddess Nature, pregnant52 with ger
minating seeds. The slender flamelike dynamic and hieratic nature
of the anthropomorphs and above all the thorns on the body recall
the anthropomorphic figures of the American Pecos River. This, as
well as the general context, seems to substantiate the psychoactive
hypothesis of the rituals connected to the depictions. If we wish to
broach possible hypotheses regarding the specific inductor, I would
suggest mushrooms or even (thorny) Datura stramonium, substances
known and cited53 in historical times in Europe as early as the begin
ning of the Middle Ages (Hildegard of Bingen), above all with regard
to medicinal uses. The archaeologist Juan Ruiz and other research
ers54 report a wall painting dating to around 4000 BC in Spain in
the Selva Pasquala site (Villar del Humo, Cuenca) where a dozen
mushrooms, probably Psilocybe hispanica, are depicted on a panel more
than a meter long.

The Cup Marks Phenomenon

The infrequent examples where cup marks exhibit actual artistic

characteristics, by themselves or more often along with other motifs,
might lead many researchers to leave out these rock engravings
entirely from the category of rock art. It would probably be more
logical, therefore, to consider the phenomenon of these engravings
on an equal footing with objects of daily use such as knapped flints
or the remains of fires or pottery. (Cup marks are known as cupules
in French, coppelle in Italian, Schalenstein in German, sklgropar in
Swedish, kuppikivi in Finnish, etc.) The socalled cup mark is a semi
spherical cavity engraved in the rock (sometimes also called pierres
cuelles in French) generally ranging from a few up to 20 or 30 cm
in diameter, varying in depth from a few millimeters to around 2 or
3 cm. Cup marks generally appear in groups and are found in vari
ous parts of the world, in particular throughout the centralwestern
Alpine arc.

The Comasque physician Antonio Magni was among the first to

study them in Italy. There are no fewer than two hundred documents
and articles in his bibliography, beginning with the early nineteenth
century, which is when studies on the cup marks began. Magni writes:

Most of those who have studied the cups engraved in

stones agree that they were the expression of a religious
cult, i.e., of a supernatural idea which could express itself
in various ritual manifestations, none of which has survived,
neither as a certainty nor as a likely supposition. We can
only note that, in those countries where they have not
been completely forgotten, they appear to be surrounded
by peculiar legends and are an object of superstition and
of a certain worship. In Italy they have been forgotten.55

Most of the relevant literature deals with the discovery, survey, and
technical analysis of the sites. Articles devoted preferentially to their

Figure 2.8. Cup marks on Mount Roccer (Piedmont, Italy)

S ites of the research / 63

interpretation are decidedly rare, almost nonexistent. However, in

two centuries of studies the number of hypotheses, some pure inven
tion, has grown considerably (around 120 according to Seglie of the
CeSMAP, personal communication). Borgna,56 on the other hand, has
arranged the hypotheses in categories according to whether they have
solar, stellar, religious, funereal, graphic, mapping, river, or fertility
significance. While some consider the boom in the number of cup
marks to have begun in the Mousterian, for Borgna it more probably
began in the Neolithic period, around four to five thousand years ago,
and continued sporadically up to a thousand years ago. On the whole
the cup mark sites are located at an altitude ranging from 400500 to
1,8002,000 meters above sea level. Various authors, including Arc,
Biganzoli, Gibelli, and Vaudagna57 have documented the rocks with
cup marks found in northwestern Piedmont.
Recently, Bednarik58 has reconsidered the various hypotheses in
circulation regarding the cup marks. On the basis of the pertinent
international literature he has grouped them into eleven possible cat
egories: specific and nonspecific magiccult rituals, use in the prepara
tion of substances (spices, pigments, medicines), devices for mnemonic
recording, elements in systems of belief, depictions of heavenly bodies,
depictions of topographical elements, used in table games, symbols
now lost, receiving of offerings, specific symbols, and other various
proposals for practical use. I believe59 that the cupshaped cavity can
easily be seen as the negative imprint, in size and characteristics,
that a mushroom cap, specifically Amanita muscaria, would leave on
a soft surface.
The presence of A. muscaria in these areas, even now, can read
ily be verified. The psychoactive potency of this mushroom depends
on its being dried, since the process of desiccation transforms the
alkaloid content to active principles and also preserves them. Since
the Amanita is a lamella or gilled mushroom, the drying process
takes only a few hours when the sun is right, and often the rocks
are oriented so as to have the maximum exposure to the sun. It is
therefore legitimate to consider the cup mark rocks as ritual drying
cavities connected to fertility cults (material and ritual function),
with a symbolic penetration into the rock (Mother Earth) of the
phallic mushroom that stands there erect, upside down, until it is
dry. An aphrodisiac use of the substance itself cannot be excluded.
We do not mean to suggest a sort of Viagra effect, which I do not
think any substance in nature is capable of procuring, but rather to

an increase in sexual desire and excitation. In this sense the Amanita

muscaria, in moderate doses, seems to play an aspecific and secondary
role not unlike that of many other psychoactive or actually psyche
delic substances. This holds for alcohol as well, although the fact of
the matter is that results may be disappointing since it also reduces
the ability to perform.
Although to date no such medical or psychological studies on
the Amanita exist, comparable references are found, for example, in
the old German folklore.60 The mycologist Bernard Lowy61 believes
that some of the mushroom stones of Guatemala, with pregnant
female figures depicted on the stem, are connected to a fertility cult,
and Fabing62 refers to a possible orgiastic use in Kamtchatka. Among
the first to describe the use of the Amanita among the Kamtchatka
populations was the Russian explorer and geographer Stepan Petro
vitch Kracheninnikov, who between 1737 and 1741 explored those
lands. He reported that the mushroom was eaten dried or in a fer
mented beverage based on Kiprei (Epilobium angustifolium) and that

[a] small hole seemed a great door to them, a spoon of

water, a sea: however only those who make an excessive
use of these mushrooms become delirious: those who use
it with moderation become only lighter, more alive, gayer,
more daring and more intrepid.63

In one of his fantasy short stories, The Purple Pileus, H. G.Wells64

praises the aphrodisiac virtues of the A. muscaria. Quite a few con
sumers today who make use of this substance and communicate on
the Internets forums, blogs etc., seem to agree. More generally, the
shape itself of mushrooms lends itself to sexual allusions in terms of
human genital organs. Associations and terminology of this sort even
appears in the science of mycology, such as the mushroom known as
Phallus impudicus or the Amanita phalloides or the Amanita vaginata.
Of the historically recurrent references in the literature on possible
meanings of the cup marks regarding their sexual symbolism, the latest
is by Schwegler,65 a Swiss archaeologist, who affirms: The cupmarks
may be sexual symbols (an abstract representation of the maternal
womb or vulva).
Naturally, the interpretation as a ritual drying cavity is also open
to criticism. It might be asked why it was necessary to laboriously
engrave cup marks in the rock when the same result would have
been achieved by simply placing the mushrooms on the bare rock.
S ites of the research / 65

My answer is that the magiccult functions mentioned above are part

of the picture. They mutually support each other, creating a shamanic
liturgy that probably rendered these specific sites sacred. They cer
tainly had no function connected with housing, funerary purposes,
or otherwise, and created a clear territorial marker for denoting the
sacred site and its functions.
Other possible criticisms concern the temporal and universal
extension of the cup marks, to be found more or less everywhere in
the world:

In Italy, in spite of the numerous obvious difficulties in

dating the cupmarks, it is possible to detect a temporal
distinction between the more ancient, original cupmarks
to which I refer in the paper (those that are without any
additional elements and that are of limited size) and other
types of cupmarks that are usually larger (sometimes as
big as basins), often interconnected by narrow channels,
and carved with iron tools. A distinction between the two
typologies must be based on manufacturing techniques.
The former, which can be traced back to the end of the
Neolithic, were made by striking the rock surface with
tools made of harder stone and later smoothing it (Gam
bari 1997). On the whole, the result is that the cupmarks
appear similar to a bowl. It is interesting to note that three
quarries of hard stone (eclogitic rocks, including various
types of jadeite) dating to the centuries around 5000 BC
were discovered in 2003 on the Italian side of Mount Viso
in Piedmont (at 3,841 meters altitude, the highest peak in
this section of the Western Alps), not far from the sites of
cupmarked stones (Ptrequin et al. 2006). The cupmarks
of Iron Age typology are characterized by their flat bottom
and vertical or subvertical sides, making them look more
like a round box. Obviously, the characteristics of the
two typologies are not always so clearly distinguishable.
In general, it has been theorized that cupmarks have a
territorial function (Sansoni 2003) connected to the cult
practices of narrow communities. This allows us to analyze
specific situations without necessarily having to resort to
the universal functions of cupmarks, which are found
all over the world, though their presence is less frequent
on other continents than in Europe. (Bednarik 2008)66

Moreover, it appears evident that the function hypothesized presents

itself as a central and original constitutive element of the phenom
enon, from which many variables, exceptions, peculiarities, and limi
tations could be derived, falsifying the principal idea.
Thus, we also have cup marks on vertical walls (not to be con
fused with more or less slanting walls). To tell the truth they are truly
a minority and while I have no precise estimate for the Alpine arc in
Estonia, they represent only 4 percent of the cup mark surfaces.67 We
have rocks with a single cup mark or with two or three, paired cup
marks, or not round in form, micro cup marks and maxi-cup marks,
more like basins, petroglyphs in which the cup mark is inserted into
another schematic context as is the case above, all in Switzerland
and in Great Britain, etc. These exceptions or varied typologies may
therefore have had other meanings although this would not invalidate
the principal hypothesis. In other words, the cup mark cannot be
considered a ritual symbol comparable to the Christian cross, which,
whenever or wherever it appears and in whatever historical time, is
a clear and unequivocal reference.
The greatest number of cup mark sites in Europe are on the
northwestern Alpine slopes of Piedmont and the French side of the
RhneAlpes. Other large groups are present in northern Estonia and
southern Finland, not to mention the places with more sporadic and
rare appearances in Europe and in extraEuropaean contexts.68
Is there a connection between the cup mark phenomenon and
the practically certain depiction of A. muscaria on Mont Bgo? There
is certainly a territorial and temporal contiguity with the Rock of the
Tribal Chief (1800 BC). In the absence of other correlations we shall
leave the question openone of many, such as whether it would be
possible to transfer this model proposed for the northwestern Alps
to the other contexts I have cited. Certainly there is not, nor was
there, a want of A. muscaria in northern Europe.
Are there traces of the psychotropic and oneiric effects of A.
muscaria in the figurative rock art or other prehistorical or protohistori
cal artistic forms? When one thinks of the labor involved in engrav
ing and smoothing so many cup marks with stone tools, the question
presents itself as to when, how and why such an important ritual died
out. It will not be easy to find answers to these questions, but they do
bring to the fore a theme whose importance in European Neolithic
prehistory and the Bronze Age has so far been underestimated.

The Significance of the Research

Rock Art and Psychology

In various parts of this study we have noted the role currently played
by psychology in the attempt to understand the often obscure signifi
cance of rock art. The psychoanalyst Nicola Peluffos comments on
this interdisciplinary collaboration are particularly pertinent:

[E]ven though many anthropologists do not agree, I believe

that for prehistoric man the development of art followed the
same lines of development as did his thought as a whole.
Here too Haeckels law is respected. Human ontogeny reca
pitulates phylogeny in an abbreviated form and therefore
light is cast on the development of prehistoric art by the
study of child psychology, conscious and preconscious, as
well as by the direct study of prehistory and tribal art.1

One cannot help but share this line of reasoning, without, however,
reducing the two aspects of the phenomenon into simplistic com
parisons. More than ever the parallelisms involve cognitive aspects
or those relative to a subdevelopment. Indeed, everything points
to the fact that prehistorical technological man may have been more
intelligent, on average, than contemporary man. How else can his
survival be explained?
This does not mean that such a comparison will immediately
resolve the problem of the interpretation of rock art. Rather than
focusing on the collected data of the nature of the representations, we
would do better to turn our attention to what the primitive and the
infantile categories have in common. To begin with, there are the
quantitative data regarding the great number of human and animal


depictions that appear in both types. On the other hand house and
tree, typically found in childrens drawings, are almost completely
absent from rock art, while the sun is infrequently present, and
not in all locations, in petroglyphs and pictograms. But perhaps what
they have in common more than the subject matter are formal and
structural aspects, such as transparency and superposition in order
to show subjectively important aspects that cannot be seen at one
and the same time, the overturning and flattening of the image. The
war chariots of Bohusln, for example, have flat attached wheels,
round and with visible spokes. Relative sizes no longer correspond
to reality and objects seen as more important are privileged in their
spatial collocation; perspective and a ground line are absent, and the
representation is predominantly narrative.
It hardly needs to be said that what interests us here are the
more complex representations, images, and pictograms in relation to
the immaterial manifestations of the psyche of a visionary or sym
bolicvisionary nature. Of less importance to us are the general aspects
of rock art, often consisting merely of lines, diagrams, ideograms, and
more or less schematic or geometric signs.
The functions of rock art could be thought of essentially as
a secondary language: after the words have given expression to the
thought, the art provides a memory of the activity depicted and a way
of recording the emotions stimulated by the mental depiction.2 As for
the mnemonic aspects, the first representations could be considered
as the beginning of the existence of an ESSS (External Symbolic
Storage System), a useful source of information for the internal, bio
logical memory.

External memory is a critical feature of modern human

cognition, if we are trying to build an evolutionary bridge
from Neolithic to modern cognitive capabilities or a
structural bridge from mythic to theoretic culture. The
brain may not have changed recently in its [sic] genetic
makeup, but its link to an accumulating external memory
network affords it cognitive powers that would not have
been possible in isolation.3

Representational art requires a capacity for rverie, a state of

total concentration on the object being created that presupposes a
dissociation and a detachment from the surrounding environment and
The sig nificance of the research / 69

from disturbing thoughts, almost a sort of merging of ones identity

with the artistic production. This identification is a meditative silence
that permits the ego to exercise the superior organizational functions
with which it is endowed, from simple eyehand coordination to the
most sophisticated pictorial techniques. Quite the contrary, the hyper
activity of the brain brought on by psychoactive substances tends
to distract the ego from its applicative and rational functions. This
is why I believe that prehistoric visionary art was produced during
NOSCs (nonordinary states of consciousness). It is, moreover, prob
able that real life experiences connected to the visionary experience
were socialized and interpreted in a collective form, perhaps in small
groups of initiates guided by the shaman and that only after this
process of mental metabolizing of experience was it possible to give
it representational form.
It is not easy to understand what role prehistoric society attrib
uted to the sexual apparatus, exemplified by vulvas and above all erect
male members extensively found in exciting but nonerotic hunting
scenes. Actual couplings, although rare, are nevertheless explicit, evi
dently a sign that Freudian censure had a minor role. In general,
I believe it can be said that sexuality is a dominant theme in rock
art, which seems to indicate an intense activity centered on symbolic
aspects connected to themes of fertility. The Freudian digressions on
the primal horde who killed the Father to take his place and its sub
sequent totemic representation can help us in understanding the birth
of religions, but add nothing to an understanding of the evolution of
Homo Sapiens. To the contrary, the overly simplistic interpretations
using Freudian criteria, as for example in explaining hallucinatory
phenomena, gave free rein to the relative pathological interpreta
tions without adding anything to the actual interpretation of these
If, as many believe, the complex scenes that characterize rock
art are the offspring of NOSCs, and if many were directly inspired by
the use of psychoactive substances, it would be best to return to inter
pretations that deal with the problem of the actual neurocognitive
function of these substances. The highly promising working hypoth
esis is that throughout the centuries and millennia the psychedelic
experience remained essentially the same neurocognitive process,
not subject to great modifications, except, of course, in the context
of environment and culture. The best example to study is the fig
ure of the theriantrope, half man, half animal. The close behavioral

relationship with predators has already been mentioned. But there

is more to it than that. A further connection with the animal king
dom is symbolized by the nagual, the animal alter ego or counterpart
acquired by a person at birth and also the animal into which the
shaman can transform himself. For the Chiapas Indios it is his ally
and protector, a concept unquestionably going back to preColumbian
times. Identification with the form and functions, the powers of
the animal would in part be predestined, even though particularly
powerful sorcerers and healers can with time acquire other animal
naguals.4 The identification with the specific animal or with other
species of the animal realm is part of the transpersonal phenomenol
ogy induced by psychoactive substances. Grof differentiates this sui
generis experience from the psychodynamic autosymbolic stylizations
connected to aggressiveness or sexuality that can be mirrored in a
mutually related animal.
This identification, similar to some of the medieval European
tales of witchcraft, concerns the sensation of assuming the physical
shape, behavior, habits, perceptions, and instincts typical of the ani
mal with which one identifies, often transcending the imagination
and/or knowledge pertaining to the animal itself. No one can say
how or why such transformations are possible except by conjecture,
which, to be blunt, makes not the least difference. Many persons of
absolutely sound mind, with no inclination to lying or fear of the
inquisitors tools of the trade, have recounted episodes of this type.
And even if they are but highly imaginative fantasies, the fact remains
that this distinctive feature of psychoactive use (and, according to
Grof, such NOSCs can also be stimulated by other, nonchemical
methods) could certainly be an important part of primitive mans store
of experiences, more meaningful perhaps than for modern man, for
the reasons we mentioned above. Consequently, the theriantrope and
its representation acquire a significance that is much more concrete
than might be expected in the carrying out of the contingent power
of transformation.
Concerning fantasies, this may also be the key to the inter
pretation of the curious Xray drawings, previously mentioned. We
see the phenomena in relation to the fantasies and infantile curios
ity dealt with in particular by Klein, concerning the objects (in a
psychoanalytical sense) contained within the body of the mother, the
children, the paternal penis, etc. The desire to have knowledge of, and
then depict, the mysterious things inside living creatures, animal or
The sig nificance of the research / 71

vegetable, perhaps in the hopes of understanding how they function,

may arise from this atavistic curiosity.
The role of the Basic Perinatal Matrices in Grofs theory must
be stressed:

The Matrices (Basic Perinatal MatricesBPM) furnish

each individual with a sort of primary imprinting. These
four matrices refer to the last phase of gestation, labor and
delivery. They act on several levels:

biological and neurophysiological as the final fetal

development and the actual delivery;
psychologically as coenesthetic and neurosomatic
archetypical and symbolic as a phylogenetic representation;
sociocultural, as the expression of collective phenomena.

BPM I refers to the intrauterine state in the perfect

quiet of the maternal amniotic liquid, an aquatic condi
tion associated with an absence of tension and suffering,
of symbolic fusion and a totalizing cosmic unity.
BPM II corresponds to the beginning of the actual
delivery, the preceding equilibrium is interrupted by bio
chemical signals of alarm and the first contractions.
The spasms compress the fetus and there is no possibil
ity of escape. There may be feelings of imminent threat and
strong anxiety connected to the feeling of being trapped,
with no possible solution or hope. Associated are feelings
of impotence, solitude and various painful forms such as
suffocation and the archetype is connected to figures of
desperation and eternal damnation.
BPM III is associated with the dilation of the cervix
and the gradual passage through the birth canal. It is the
struggle for survival associated to strength, aggressive
ness and sexuality and with titanic aspects connected to
the forces of nature, to sadomasochistic components as
a reaction to suffocation and the pain inflicted by the
female reproductive system. The element fire is dominant,

religious and mythological symbolism stress sacrifice, the

deathrebirth struggle, the act of purification.
BPM IV corresponds to the actual birth, the passage
into the environmental condition outside the mother com
pleted by the cutting of the umbilical cord. Symbolically it
can be connected to the feeling of a total and annihilating
catastrophe, the real death of the ego, prelude however to
feelings of redemption and cosmic liberation frequently
associated with feelings of universal love, the archetype
marks the encounter with Light and the divinities of myth.
The event-birth is connected to the individuals bio
graphical story when the umbilical cord is cut and the child
receives the first mothering. Its subsequent reemergence
will accompany us throughout our lives, at times subtly
and unrecognizably, in other situations and in NOSC in
particular in a dramatic form.5

In the light of this theory based on Grofs extensive researches with

LSD, one can draw interesting symbolic references regarding the
entrances to the painted caves of the Upper Paleolithic and to those
of the European megalithic tombs.
LewisWilliams6 stresses both the regenerative role of the exit
from the cave after what might have been a lengthy stay, and also
the obscure, subterranean chthonic character of these narrow pas
sageways, of this descent into the depths of the earth. The symbol
icuterine nature of these dark and difficult passages, connected to
Mother Earth, thus acquire greater significance both as entrance
and as a return to the quiet of the first matrix and as the exit of
rebirth and transformation.
As for the acquisition of the dualistic mentioned in the para
graph on the religious problem of the origins, the work of reference
is undoubtedly that of Mahler and his colleagues in the mid1950s on
the individualizationdifferentiation of the child. They demonstrate
through observation that this dualism begins when the nursing child
first makes a basic distinction between hunger and satiety.
The question arises as to whether there are other phases of
phylogenesis that have a possible correspondence, and the answer
seems to be yes. For example, the omnipotent infantile phase of sym
biotic fusion with the mother who unconditionally nourishes with no
boundary between the self and the mother, could be represented by
The sig nificance of the research / 73

the myth of a terrestrial paradise. The myth is widespread in many

cultures, of a place or time where there is no suffering and where
everything is within reach, a myth that unquestionably contains, as
always, some element of reality, relating to places and moments of
abundance during the Archaic HunterGatherer period.

Foundation Myths

Myths often exhibit properties of delirium or visionary expe

rience. They are the literary, intellectual memory bank, the
conceptual heritage of all peoples and, first and foremost,
of those cultures without writing. For the tribal world,
myths are history. They are orally handed down through
the generations, and the Bible itself is a collection of myths
transmitted orally before they were put down in writing.7

Anatis interesting transposition from vision to myth is an excellent

point of departure for an investigation of some of the socalled founda
tion myths, primary elements in the origins of the human species or
even of the world and the universe. The vision, expressed symboli
cally as myth, may actually be thought of as an attempt to describe
metaphorically a real phenomenon for which we have no scientific
explanations but that demands some kind of shared interpretation.
Thus, the Tao, the Way, gave birth to Two, yin and yang, Two gave
birth to Three, Three gave birth to man, the ten thousand beings,
and everything under the sky. In Hinduism the breath of the uni
verse is measured with a symbolic number of fifteen ciphers that mark
the beginning and the end of a creation cycle, the MahaKalpa, the
life of Brahma, followed by an equally long cycle of destruction, the
In Vedic mythology the sacrifice of the giant Purusha, the uni
verse, generates the inorganic world and life, including human beings.
In myths the commingling of human beings and divinities is often rep
resented as human interference in the divine perfection of creation,
which must then be rectified. Of particular interest for our purposes
is the myth of the Flood as divine punishment, common in many
cultures, beginning with the Sumerian: The oldest archaeologically
verifiable great flood that took place between 2900 and 2750 BC.
Among the Babylonians and in the epic of Gilgamesh there are also

precise references to the construction of great ships in which men and

animals are saved and which certainly inspired the Biblical myth of
Noah and his covenant with God. With reference to these myths, as
a possibility Anati cites the melting of the glaciers at the end of the
Middle Pleistocene, more than 120,000 years ago, when the oceans
rose 120 meters. More recently other authors have hypothesized the
collapse of the Laurentine ice sheet, around eight thousand years ago,
an event that raised the oceans 1.4 meters. Whatever the case, these
are clear mythological references to an actual occurrence that made
a deep and lasting impression on the humans or protohumans of the
time, initially generating oral tellings, which were handed down and
later transposed to written form.
Does this authorize us to think that other such events that left
their mark on the evolution of the species in such a significant way
would have followed a similar pattern? In our own culture the basic
foundation myth is that of the Bible,8 regarding our progenitors, rep
resented by Adam and Eve, and the Tree of Good and Evil whose
prohibited fruit makes them like God but also makes the original
couple lose their innocence.

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every
tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the
tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the tree of
knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt
not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:1617)
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for
food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to
be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof,
and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and
he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and
they knew that they were naked. (Genesis 3:67)

In addition to this classic interpretation there is another lesser

known one, from a gnostic text of the thirdfourth century AD, one
of the Codices known as Origin of the World (NHC II:97, 24127,
17). Regarding the mythologem of Adam and Eve we read as follows:
The sig nificance of the research / 75

Now Eve had confidence in the words of the instructor.

She gazed at the tree and saw that it was beautiful and
appetizing, and liked it; she took some of its fruit and ate
it; and she gave some also to her husband, and he too ate
it. Then their intellect opened. For when they had eaten,
the light of gnosis shone upon them. When they clothed
themselves with shame, they knew that they were naked of
knowledge. When they became sober, they saw that they
were naked and became enamored of one another. (119,10)9

The eating of the mythical Fruit here is seen not as sin but as the
original attainment of awareness of the self. Adam and Eve were
naked in respect to the gnosis, that is, they discovered that they
now knew what they had not known [before], and this is what they
were ashamed of.
Reference to consciousnessaltering substances here is almost
explicit and could support the hypothesis, as we will see in the next
chapter, that such substances contributed to the phylogenesis, the
formation of the characteristic selfawareness exclusive to the human
species. Once more, psychology can come to our aid. A crucial phase
in the evolution of the individual has been identified in what Lacan
calls the Mirror Stage, when the child at around nine months clearly
demonstrates a recognition of the Self.

To have an image of oneself is a specifically human act

to be interpreted on two different levels. I can have a
concrete image observing myself as an object among
other objects, I can mirror myself in a reflecting surface,
I can have comments on my person by other persons, I
can observe parts of my body, I can also look at myself
within, do what is known as selfexamination and I can
confront myself, examine reality. In other words, in terms
that refer to Sartres philosophy, this all has to do with
a Self that is positional with regards to the ego that is
observing it.
But the true Self, the Self we are dealing with in
the analysis of the conscious and its modifications, is not
only the positional Self. There is also a nonpositional Self,
which belongs to the selfconsciousness or consciousness
that knows itself....[T]o know that I know I know can

be defined a primary nonpositional consciousness or primary

or absolute evidence....
The journey towards the polarity of the Self is
an expanding movement that generates a growth of
selfawareness and that implies the gradual loss of the
points of reference constructed by the development of the
ego. Spacetime coordinates, identity, perceptive constants
of reference, the very presence of the body in space are
questioned by a radical change in consciousness, so radi
cal that at its peak dualism disappears leaving the field
of consciousness completely homogeneous in a totalizing
fusion generally described in terms pertaining to spiritual
ity and mysticism.10

The Crisis of the Cultural Paradigm

The year 391 that marked the end of Eleusis also symbolically decreed
the eclipse in Europe of every initiatory ceremony, public and official,
based on the highly probable use of psychoactive substances. Only
seventynine years had passed since the battle on Ponte Milvio had
witnessed the triumph of the Emperor Constantine over Maxentius.
It constituted the beginning of the politicalreligious expansion of an
aggressive and sectarian cult that had caught on in Rome some years
earlier. Originating in Palestine and grafted onto Hebrew Judaism,
the cult was centered on the exaltation of suffering and on a human
sacrifice, on the expiation, including physical atonement, of sins, some
of which, regarding sexuality, were completely unknown as such to the
peoples who lived in Rome and under the Empire. There were various
reasons why this cult propagated, a cult that referred to Chrestus and
for which there is no documentation11 with the exception of the acts
of the religion itself. The cult privileged the interests of the group and
its rigid organization to the detriment of the individual; it rationalized
and simplified the religious vision of the world; its many gods were
replaced by a single god, promising paradise and eternal life to those
who accepted its rules. Women, excluded from the Mithraic rites, also
participated, even though in a position of submission. It was tolerant
with regard to slavery, the real motor behind the economy of those
times, and therefore it did not undermine the established order and
even became its champion.
The sig nificance of the research / 77

Christianitys long war against the pagans is marked by formal

acts that began in 306 with the Council or Synod of Elvira in Spain.
Between 391 and 392 Emperor Theodosius I promulgated a series
of decrees forbidding visits to pagan temples and the worshiping of
statues, in 399 Emperor Arcadius ordered the country temples to be
torn down. Various subsequent acts, the Council of Arles (443 and
452), Tours (567), Nantes (658), and Toledo (681 and 693), reaf
firmed this concept. Paradoxically, a spiritualistic visionary elite that
did not disdain the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms seems to have
existed parallel with and secretly within the Church itself with the
probable covert support of hierarchies who accepted this mystical
way.12 The cult of the sacred stones in Italy and Europe (saxorum
veneratio) also worried the founding fathers of the new Catholic reli
gion. Filoramo13 informs us that, as indicated by various documents,
Augustine, Caesarius of Arles, and Gregorius Magnus systematically
began to rehabilitate or cleanse the old peasant rites, eradicating cult
practices of which we know nothing, and between the end of the
fourth and the early fifth century, Maximus, bishop of Turin, strongly
condemned the simulacra lapidea.
All this probably marked the beginning of the disappearance of
the trance in Europe where it remained only in residual forms and
was degraded to the rank of witchcraft or concealed, as in the pagan
shamanic cult of the Benandanti, or syncretized with phenomena such
as tarantism. Regarding the various psychoactive substances, little
information is available on the use of Amanita in Europe and they
are no more than indications, while we know even less as to when
it stopped being used. It seems likely however that the probable cults
involved had already disappeared in preRoman times. Information
on the prevalence of cannabis, abundant in extraEuropean contexts
(Near East, India, etc.), is just as scanty. In the fifth century BC
Herodotus describes its use by the Scythians, an IndoEuropean tribe
in the Carpathians. Finds of cannabis in a funerary urn in Wimersdorf
in Germany in 1896 by the archaeologist Hermann Busse date to
around the same period. Both the Romans and the Greeks knew the
plant15 and its effects, but there is no evidence of its use for religious
or recreational purposes. There are, however, numerous references to
alcohol, the European drug par excellence, the diffusion of which
in the form of wine and beer has continued up to our times.
In the Odyssey, Homer mentions Maronean wine, traded in by
the Greeks. Evidence of wine in southern Italy (Sicily) dates back

to 2000 BC. A thousand years later it also appeared in the north in

the Villanovan culture.16 Among the Romans it was reserved for the
wealthier classes, and women were excluded. It was not until the
beginning of the Christian era that it became widespread and there
was an increase in the wine trade to the point of inflation and a con
sequent fall in prices. Beer is even older, dating to several millennia
BC among the Sumerians, the AssyroBabilonians, and the Egyptians.
It subsequently spread everywhere, including northern Europe. It is
likely that the diffusion and persistence of alcohol compared to other
substances is due to the fact that it was considered a food, which in
antiquity already tended to cover its effects as a popular lowcost
tranquillizer. Islam and the Arabs introduced Europe to the still and
distillation while Christianity created the great divide between the
drug culture connected to cannabis and the drinking culture con
nected to alcohol, although other nonreligious variables played a role
in this distinct separation.
In 1972, a study carried out at a panglobal level17 on 488
homogeneous sociocultural groups established that in 90 percent of
these groups there was a tendency to accept manifestations of human
behavior involving trance and more generally NOSCs. The remaining
minority, coinciding with the advanced capitalist societies and the
socalled socialist countries, were on the whole either disinterested
or showed a more or less active refusal of these collective experi
ences. The clear majority was and is constituted of polyphase societies
where manifestations of this sort allow forms of personal and group
deconditioning. Repression of the forms of collective trance that can
assume aspects of social rebellion is not a prerogative of Christianity
but does, and has manifested itself with significant continuity. Lapasse
writes as follows regarding the Bacchanalia affair in which Rome rigidly
repressed this cult. Livy commented on the great number of death
sentences and the destruction of the places of worship:

The trance thus appears as a natural analyzer of social con

tradictions. Among the Greeks, the contraposition between
Dionysius and Apollo is the contradiction between the
dominated and the dominator: this becomes particularly
visible in Rome, with the repression of the Dionysian rites.18

Particularly rigid sociopolitical and religious structures cannot

tolerate the trance, especially when it overflows from the private sec
The sig nificance of the research / 79

tor to invest broad social strata. But where does this need of trance
come from:

There are at least three reasons. One, because it is part of

the specific nature of human beings never to be satisfied
with staying where they are. Like ants or bees they inces
santly work to explore their environment; and when they
reach the limits of the explorable with their senses and
their intellectual faculties and encounter the mystery, they
do not give up, but look for ways of passing the frontier,
and going to the other side.
Then, because it is from that knowledge (the result of
an experience that differs greatly from the intellectual and
rational experiences that characterize the operative dimen
sion carried out in the light of day) that the experts and
specialists bring back into the ordinary dimension indica
tions and expertise, cognizance and abilities on how to deal
with the dimension of the invisible and the immaterial. This
also includes those objects we call psyche and culture.
Lastly, because a group of human beings who together
experience the passage and journey into the other world,
or who put their trust in someone who can do so, are
transformed into a coherent, supportive, powerful we. It
is a we in which many excesses, discoveries and needs
find a prompt, shared, controlled way in which to express

The first of these commendable reasons has to do with processes

of knowledge that go hand in hand with scientific evolution. Here
too, all boundaries invite us to transcend them, but here too the
system tends to remain entrenched, closed in on itself and adamantly
maintaining itself in the constitution of the paradigm. As Webster

What connects Kuhn with psychedelics then, is that the

rediscovery of psychedelics in the middle of the 20th Cen
tury promised revolutionary changes in several fields of
scientific enquiry and medicine, and, as I shall claim later
on, a revolution in the concept of scientific study itself. I
refer to a rediscovery of psychedelics of course, because as

we all know, the use of these substances is very ancient,

panglobal, and probably goes right back to the beginning
of human existence. Psychedelics had to be REdiscovered
because modern industrial civilization has been one of the
very few human societies generally unaware of psychedelic
plants, and without any general use of them for curing,
initiation, religious and heuristic practices, and so forth.
The potential revolutionary changes that this redis
covery should have brought about would have been well
described and their genesis and growth wellpredicted by
Kuhns theory if it werent for the fact that practically all
these revolutionary promises still remain unfulfilled, stifled
by a long antipsychedelic backlash. This backlash was first
brought about in the late 1960s by social and governmental
forces in the USA, perpetuating a long and dismal Puri
tanical trend in America that brought the world the great
folly of modern prohibitionary policies. But soon after, the
scientific establishment itself seemed to become infected
with this diseaselike situation, so that today it is the rare
scientist who has any inkling whatever that the rediscovery
of psychedelic drugs might be something not only interest
ing, but extremely important and potentially revolutionary.
Despite the truth of the matter, so obvious to those in the
know, to say that the psychedelic rediscovery was one of
the most important social AND scientific developments of
the 20th century would be to invite unremitting ridicule
from the great majority of scientists alive today.
Such reactionary resistance to scientific revolution,
although a great disappointment and in general an appar
ent discredit to the legitimacy of socalled scientific prog
ress, is nevertheless the normal state of affairs, as Kuhns
findings show. When closely examined from Kuhns per
spective on the history of science, the scientific enterprise
is seen to be almost overbearingly conservativea history
filled with repression of new and revolutionary ideas. We
all are familiar with such examples of repression as the
Vaticans crusade against Galileo, but Kuhn shows how
the scientific community itself has often been as repressive
of scientific innovation as any religious or social group.20
The sig nificance of the research / 81

Marc Blochs core idea that improving our knowledge of the past
will help us better solve the problems of the present can also easily
be extended to the History of Prehistory. There is great wisdom in
the words of the previously cited Piero Coppo:

Perhaps answers could come from those who despite it

all, despite the obligation of the monodimensionality
of thought, existence and culture, continue to seriously
employ the ways, ancient or modern, ethnic or newly
invented, or hybridized ones, of entering nonordinary states
of consciousness in safety and with others; to make then
something of them that isnt merely a reaction, a temporary
and sometime dangerous escape from the insupportability
of the present consensus worldview. Today it seems to me
important to avoid advertisings blinding dazzle, completely
separated from the leaden greyness of everyday life; but
rather to make efforts at mediation, transport, a fusion.
Bring the here to the there as much as possible, and what
is there here, make the interface, the seams, the passage
last; see that the doors of perception remain ajar, and
that the journey is transformed into a lasting enrichment,
resulting in a more complete way of living, seeing, and
experiencing the world. Some experts who work in the
field call this integration: receiving, understanding, assimi
lating what is gradually being explored, transforming the
individual experience into a collective proposal, aware that
there is no health unless one succeeds in integrating what
there is in the night with what there is in the day, what
was before with what comes after, traditions and science;
to go in a direction to which we feel we belong, towards
a place that is still unknown.21

Origins of Psychedelia

Peter Webster

The Most Human Universal

The search for evidence that human tribes and societies throughout
global history have used psychoactive plants for religious, shamanic,
philosophical, and medical purposes has met with great success. Pub
lications citing such evidence come from an entire spectrum, from
druguse oriented screeds to the most conservative of scientific jour
nals. The ultrarespectable Scientific American Library Series counts
among its handsome and lavishly illustrated volumes its Plants, People,
and CultureThe Science of Ethnobotany, and devotes an entire chap
ter to plants that have been used for Entering the Other World. A
world map shows clearly just how universal psychoactive plant use
has been, the historical locations of use of a dozen of the major plant
species being shown across the globe.1
The science of anthropology has not always been at the forefront
of such research, however, and still today some of the reigning para
digms of the discipline reveal a willful ignorance of the importance of
psychoactive use in the evolution of human societies. Many examples
could be cited, but one especially concerns us here: the stillongoing
nature versus nurture debate, which, as we will see, has allowed
anthropologists to ignore psychoactive plant use as a mere curios
ity, or worse, as a perversion or degeneration of a supposed original
drugfree shamanism.


Anthropological paradigms of the twentieth century have vacil

lated between nature and nurture as the prime cause of human
behavior: whether it is culture or genetic inheritance that influences
behavior the most strongly. In some professional circles the propo
nents of cultural relativism had slowly gained ground to the point
of flatly denying that anything like a universal human nature need
be considered important for theories of human behavior. It was an
attempt to relegate notions of human nature to the realm of folk psy
chology, an attempt not alone among many other twentiethcentury
efforts to clear the decks and make of science something more pre
cise and absolute, uncontaminated with certain negatively perceived
characteristics of nineteenthcentury science.
And then there arrived on the scene a revolutionary little book
entitled Human Universals. Its author, the anthropologist Donald E.
Brown, argues that not only do universals exist, but they are impor
tant to any broad conception of the task of anthropology. Brown
immediately takes the offensive to explain how anthropology had
taken a wrong turn:

[T]he study of universals has been effectively tabooed

as an unintended consequence of assumptions that have
predominated in anthropology (and other social sciences)
throughout much of this century. From 1915 to 1934
American anthropologists established three fundamental
principles about the nature of culture: that culture is a
distinct kind of phenomenon that cannot be reduced to
others (in particular, not to biology or psychology), that
culture (rather than our physical nature) is the funda
mental determinant of human behavior, and that culture
is largely arbitrary. This combination of assumptions made
universals anomalous and very likely to be rare; to admit or
dwell upon their existence raised troubling questions about
anthropologys fundamental assumptions. These assump
tions also led many anthropologists to conclude or argue
that anthropology should be narrowed from the study of
humanity to the study of culture.2

While the final definition of a human universal may still be

in a state of flux, Brown provides us with sufficient guidelines in his
book so that we may apply the concept to our present endeavor. An
orgins of ps ychedelia / 85

important point is that although a human universal may have its

roots in human biology, it is above all social and cultural in nature,
and not merely trivial and physiological as some had claimed. Browns
published list of universals is a thoughtprovoking list indeed, and
includes a wide range of human behavioral characteristics. Some seem
to be inherent in human nature and biology, while others are cultural
conventions that have come to have universal distribution. Of partic
ular interest for us here is this one: Mood- or consciousnessaltering
techniques and/or substances. Here, I shall claim that this is one of
the most important, perhaps the most important and the very first of
all human universals.
I should like to alter the definition of the universal a bit, how
ever, to designate what must be its fundamental: it must be that the
seeking of nonordinary states of consciousness (NOSCs) is the universal,
and methods to do so subsidiary to the seeking. The methods them
selves may or may not be quite so universal, since they can be quite
varied in time and place. Certain societies haveand others we dont
know about may haveforgone or proscribed the use of psychoactive
substances for various reasons, and/or employed alternatives for sub
stance use such as meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Nevertheless,
the use of psychoactives must remain at least a nearuniversal, since it
is such a supremely effective way to alter consciousness. And psycho
active use must approach complete universality in the most ancient
of societies where cultural organization was still in its early stages:
in such early tribes and societies wellorganized and often powerful
priesthoods, the most likely source of psychoactive proscription or the
imposition of substitute and even bogus methods for consciousness
alteration, did not yet exist. Rudimentary shamanism was the norm
for early man, and given the nearuniversal prevalence of psychoac
tive use in the shamanic tradition even today, it would be difficult to
maintain that this does not reflect a universal practice for early man.
Donald Browns establishment of the importance of human
universals for anthropology logically extends into the realm of
paleoanthropology, and supports the idea that psychoactive plant use
must go back to the very beginnings of human existence. The question
naturally arises, then, whetheror, more importantly, howthe use of
psychoactive plants might have played a role in the sudden appear
ance of modern man some time between 50 Ka and 150 Ka (thou
sand years ago). There really are only three hypotheses to consider:
psychoactive use (1) played no role whatsoever, (2) accompanied and

perhaps assisted human emergence, and (3) was necessary for the evo
lution of humankind. The first hypothesis seems highly unlikely given
the available evidence, and will probably only be adopted by those
harboring a prejudicial antidrug bias. It need not be considered here.
There exists an important precedent for thinking that the seek
ing of NOSCs is a human universal, and that is the intentional psy
choactive drug use of a wide range of animals. Georgio Samorini, in
his book Animals and Psychedelics, presents evidence that

entirely on their own and without the influence of captivity

or conditioningwild animals, birds, and even insects do
indeed drug themselves. This deliberate seeking of inebria
tion among all classes of animals is a perfectly natural,
normative behaviour. Indeed, the pursuit of inebriation has
been proposed as a kind of fourth driveakin to hunger,
thirst, and sex, so ubiquitous is its manifestation.3

The evidence shows that although animals intoxicating themselves is

a feature prevalent, but scattered throughout all levels of the animal
world, it is not a universal in any given species or group of species.
Yet it is common enough to conclude that it must be evidential
of a general instinctive characteristic that humankinds predecessors
would very probably have shared with the rest of the animal kingdom.
The seeking of NOSCs becomes a universal, however, only with the
advent of human existence. This was probably due to the coexistence
of complex language as a means to make psychoactive use more than
just an instinctive desire, occasionally realized, and to bring it into
the cultural norms of the first manifestations of shamanism.
My reasons for making the second of these claims above, that
the seeking of NOSCs was the very first human universal will become
clear during the remainder of this chapter. I will argue that not only
does the universal and the accompanying necessary psychoactive sub
stance use pervade the earliest of human tribes, but that it was the
first human universal, since without this catalyst protohuman social
groups would have remained in that prehuman stasis that had already
existed in East Africa for one hundred thousand years or more. During
this long gestation, our notyethuman predecessors were physically
mature yet psychologically yettobeborn. Protoman had exactly the
same physical and neurological equipment we have today, yet his
orgins of ps ychedelia / 87

transition to early man did not take place. Then suddenly, one sum
mer...or perhaps it was winter, as I shall explain.

What Makyth a Man?

It has long been the accepted wisdom among many scientists, as well
as the common mythology of public perception, that the rise of tool
makingtechnologywas an important, if not defining characteristic
of the evolutionary process connecting advanced apes to Early Man.
Specifically, it has long been hypothesized that Darwinian selection
for increasingly intelligent hominids came about through selection
for the best abilities to make and use tools. In the extreme, at least
before recent studies of tool use and especially tool making in some
animal species, the technology of tools was thought to be a primary
defining characteristic separating Homo sapiens from the animal king
dom. Also among extremities of interpretation has been the idea that
tool making and early technology might even have been the force
driving the extraordinarily rapid increase in the size of the primate
brain, from the first hominids of two or three million years ago with
a brain volume of about four hundred cubic centimeters, to modern
man with a brain volume more than three times this figure.
It is understandably important to science to explain this evolu
tion in brain size, for it has often been noted that, on an evolutionary
timescale, the rapidity of the change was practically unprecedented.
Since the middle Pleistocene, about a halfmillion years ago, the rate
of increase was particularly rapid, so much so that it has even been
suggested that the enlargement might actually have been somewhat
pathological, leading to a being whose irrationality and capability
for wanton destructiveness equals or excels his creativity. Certainly,
recent history has featured a wealth of both capabilities, but blam
ing our present situation on purported faults of evolution is neither
productive nor scientifically logical.
It now appears that the toolmaking hypotheses also have
resulted less from a careful analysis of the data than from superficial
concurrence of two tendencies. Recent work now shows it extremely
likely that the ability to produce technologyit has been called
objectintelligence, for want of a better termhas been a development
that has piggybacked upon a much more important development

in intelligence, that which is required for social transaction. A recent

collection of the important papers providing the foundation for the
theory of Machiavellian Intelligence has been published as a book,4 and
one quotation should suffice to illustrate that even anthropologists
such as Thomas Wynn, who might be surmised to have a vested inter
est in the importance of tool use and making in the development of
early hominids, has wholeheartedly agreed with the new view:

Given the evidence of brain evolution and the archaeologi

cal evidence of technological evolution, I think it fair to
eliminate from consideration the simple scenario in which
ability to make better and better tools selected for human
intelligence. At almost no point in hominid evolution was
there even a provocative correlation. The earliest known
hominids, Australopithecus afarensis, had a brain larger than
an apes of equivalent size, but as far as we know, no greater
reliance on tools. Early Homo at 2 Ma [million years ago]
had a much more encephalized brain, but the tools and
even the context of use were not beyond the capacity of
modern apes. Homo erectus did possess technology that was
outside the range of ape behaviour, but by this time, 1.5
Ma, much of the encephalization of the Homo line had
already occurred. In sum, most of the evolution of the
human brain, the presumed anatomy of intelligence, had
occurred prior to any evidence for technological sophis
tication and, as a consequence, it appears unlikely that
technology itself played a central role in the evolution of
this impressive human ability.5

As one of the contributors to the book remarked, Wynns paper is a

bombshell to the older Tools makyth Man view....Wynn throws
the question of the cause of human brain size back into the realm
of the invisible: either the social relationships or the lifestyle which
produced technology, not the technology itself.6
The conclusions of the Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis pro
vide a key to the most probable evolutionary scenario for the influ
ence of psychoactive plants in the emergence of modern humans.
The arguments of the hypothesis show that the complexity of cog
nitive operations required for social interaction in large groups of
individuals is far greater than that required for tool use or making,
orgins of ps ychedelia / 89

or for that matter any other activity of primate species.7 Studies of

societies of monkeys and apes in both natural and controlled envi
ronments strongly support the theoretical arguments. The brain size
of various species of modern primates, for example, has been closely
correlated with the size and complexity of the social groups of the
various species studied. The complexity of social interaction would
increase geometrically with the number of possible interrelations
between animals in a group consisting of three or more generations
of relatively longlived animals. Dominance relationships, alliances,
group undertakings such as efficient foraging and hunting, lengthy
childhood, and relatively constant possibility of mating activity add
to the complexity. The demands of increasing social complexity was a
development requiring far faster biological evolution of the equipment
that facilitated it than any previous set of demands such as tool use
and manufacture, climate change, interactions with other species, or
other hypothesized evolutionary pressures. Thus, it is reasonable that
the rapid increase in brain size among primates requires no other
explanation, despite its unprecedented speed. The social transaction
conclusions of the Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis show how an
advanced ape evolved to the point of having the required physical
equipment to become artists, philosophers, musicians, and scientists,
but as we shall see, protoman, even with all this physical equipment,
remained in a prehuman stasis for an extremely long period, changing
little if any during the entire time. A further influence, sudden and
catalytic, was necessary.

Evolutionary Scenario

Giving credit where it is certainly due, it is necessary here to men

tion that Terence McKenna has also presented a hypothesis parallel
with mine concerning the necessary contribution of psychoactive use
to human emergence.8 We had discussed the idea in an exchange
of letters before publication of his book, but it seemed to me even
then that his proposed scenario put the critical influence of psychoac
tives in a fartoodistant time frame. In addition, his proposals that
psychedelics were mutationcausing agents that directly influenced
the rapid reorganization of the brains informationprocessing capaci
ties seemed to me unsupported by any significant lines of evidence.
The Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis had not yet been published,

however, nor had the genetic research that showed the ancestry of the
entire human race to be very recent, and it was these two develop
ments which provided me with a time frame and psychological mecha
nism to support my own psychedelic awakening scenario. It remains
now to show at what period an intervention of psychedelic influence
is most likely in consideration of several areas of knowledge about
fossils, human genetics, climate changes and catastrophic events, and
other sources of information. The necessity for a psychedelic interven
tion has been discussed elsewhere,9 and will be summarized below.
Before presenting a possible evolutionary scenario, however,
let me explore further the idea of social complexity and its relation
to the habit routine model of normal cognitive operation I have
proposed.10 I state that the power of the habit routine cognitive sys
tem would have increased with the increasing complexity of animal
species, and would have reached its summit in protoman. In our
protohuman ancestor we have a being whose potential intellectual
capability extends to inventing mathematics and hypothesizing phi
losophy, yet for at least one hundred thousand years, with the identi
cal equipment we possess today, we did no such thing. Our mental
powers for original, creative, analytical thinking which are a natural
product of that same intelligence that evolved for social transaction,
were held in check by powerful instinctive forcesexcept perhaps
for use in extreme emergencies, after which we would immediately
revert to our habitroutine governed existence. The very requirements
that brought our highpowered brain into existencethose necessary
for complex social interactionneeded to be radically channeled to
exclusive, habitroutine governed social use in normal times so that
social coherence would be maintained, so that individuals in a social
group used their powers in the established interests of the group,
and so that group selection would further advance the evolution of
advanced hominids. According to authors Elliot Sober and David
Sloan Wilson, this was the essential situation for the evolution of
unselfish or altruistic behavior.11
The Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis, and its proposed
increasing social complexity, fits perfectly with my surmise. Increased
social complexity and the evolution of a large, expensive to sup
port nervous system go hand in hand with extreme reliance on habit
routine generation as the primary cognitive mechanism controlling
behavior. One major consideration is that a large brain requires an
excellent and copious diet, a requirement that would be fulfilled best
orgins of ps ychedelia / 91

in a social group able to cooperate on the highest levels to procure

and share a wide variety of nutritious foods. An ability to avoid toxic
plants as well would depend on complex social relationships, as I will
show in a moment.
It might be said that all these requirements would be an argu
ment against the use of psychedelic agents in such social groups, an
argument with which I entirely agree! The increasing social complex
ity and food requirements are arguments for the increasing power of
ingrained and necessary habit routines that would prevent any cogni
tive breakthrough to using the new brain for purposes other than the
maintenance of social order and group prosperity. Experimentation
with new foods, such as psychedelic plants, would not in normal
circumstances have been a common, or even likely occurrence. Any
individual who developed a taste for consciousness alteration using
psychoactive plants would likely be seen as disruptive and deviant,
and be shunned or expelled from the social group. Such was the
substance of Andrew Weils dismissal of McKennas wild specula
tion in Food of the Gods, expressed at the first Tucson conference
on consciousness.12
Two quotations concerning the diet and food sources for pri
mates will illustrate the point, the first quotation concerning the
necessity for a rich and complex diet, the second on the ways this is
fulfilled while yet preventing exposure to toxic (or presumably psy
chedelic) items:

Monkeys and apes have to balance their diet, which they

do by wide ranging and yet selective eating; this is nicely
illustrated by a study of Sri Lankan monkeys, Macaca sinica,
by Marcel Hladik. By careful observation and quantifica
tion of their feeding, and phytochemical analysis of their
food plants, he was able to show that for these frugivo
rous monkeys, fruit was always more abundant than they
could ever need. However, the monkeys had large day
ranges and occupied a home range too large for efficient
defense as a territory. Why? Their ranging was apparently
a consequence of a need to eat fungi, rotten wood, insects,
bark, shootsa whole range of items that allowed them
to make up the protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies
of the energyrich ripe fruit (Hladik 1975). The need for
a balanced diet forces many primates to eat items that are

hard to find. In studying baboon ecology, I was continually

amazed at the subtle cues that they must use to identify
some of their plant foods; at the most harsh time of year,
the main survival foods were all either underground, or
tiny and inconspicuous.13
Mother primates of several species pull their infants
away from novel objects (two species of macaque), or
remove foods from infants if the food is not part of the
diet (chimpanzee). Caro and Hauser suggest that the latter
might be accidental, but having seen it happen in gorillas,
I doubt this (Anne Russon, who has noted the same in
orangutans, shares my scepticism). An infant gorilla was
fiddling with and chewing at a leaf (of a species not nor
mally eaten), facing away from the mother who was eating
herself, when the mother broke off her feeding, reached over
the infants head and took the leaf, dropping it well out
of the infants reach. In the case of a chimpanzee watched
by Mariko HiraiwaHasegawa (1986), the mother not only
did the same, but systematically picked every other leaf of
the same species in the infants reach and placed her foot
firmly on the pile of leaves! But in any of these cases, the
function is unclear: does the behaviour serve to teach, or
simply to remove infants from danger?14

It has been proposed that the dietary requirements of animals

with complex nervous systems was itself a factor in the evolution
of hominid intelligence, the increasing need for a highquality diet
selecting for advances in intelligence and larger brains, which itself
would demand further dietary improvements.15 This must certainly be
the case, but I think that the methods used by advancing species to
procure better and better diets are themselves aspects of social behav
ior, and thus fall under the hypotheses of Machiavellian Intelligence.
It was only through the advancing complexity of social life that the
dietary requirements could be met, either for the actual procurement
and sharing of foodstuffs or for the transmission of the knowledge of
how to obtain them, and how to avoid serious errors such as ingest
ing toxic items.
Psychedelic influence on H. erectus and even more remote
human predecessors is, of course, possible, as McKennas model sug
gests, but I believe it was unlikely, and if so, unimportant to either
orgins of ps ychedelia / 93

social or neurological evolution. Certainly, evidence is very sparse

indeed, and there are important counterarguments to be considered:
For example, H. erectus lived on three continents in various habitats
and through several periods of disruptive climatic change for a period
of one or two million years, yet remained in a relatively unchanging
state, with few signs of significant cultural or technological innova
tion. This is certainly a sign of normal, slow evolution, not psychedeli
cally assisted evolution. By contrast, the culture of early Greece, with
psychedelic influence,16 advanced dramatically from a quite primitive
state to an advanced civilization in the space of a thousand years or so.
In addition, the progression from Australopithecus to erectus to sapiens
involved many different anatomical developments, not only brain size
and reorganizations, but speechenabling changes to the larynx,17 even
an enlargement of nerve canals in the spine suggested as facilitating
the precise diaphragm control needed for speech,18 and many other
anatomical changes. This is certainly an argument for slow gradual
evolution, not psychedelically enabled or psychedelicmutagenic
evolution as suggested by McKenna.
From the preceding arguments concerning social stability, we
may thus surmise that the influence of psychedelics on our immedi
ate ancestors must have also involved some other simultaneous and
important changes or events that helped to suppress the described
tendencies to greater and greater dependence on habit routine as the
primary determinant of normal behavior. Some unusual change must
have occurred to allow and ensure that psychedelic use would occur
on a significant scale and would rapidly and irreversibly transform the
habits of the hominid group that became the first group of modern
It is necessary to point out, however, that the very brain changes
that facilitated social evolution and a powerful habit routine cogni
tive system would be the same changes that would make an eventual
psychedelic intervention most effective; a greatly expanded cortex,
allowing retention and access to longlasting and complex memory
data used for habit routine search and selection, would also be critical
to eventually implement creativity and original thinking that was far
more than random trial and error, creativity that could intentionally
produce wideranging positive results. We would not expect attempts
at individual creativity by a smallbrained animal to result in much
more than increased risk for that animal. A greatly expanded por
tion of the cortex involved with association processing, allowing

the assembly of habit routines of a multisensory and intentional

complexity, would also facilitate highly effective creativity. And a
greatly expanded frontal cortex, the seat of working memory and
other advanced cognitive abilities, facilitating habit routine based
upon simultaneous nested levels of intentionality, would likewise be
instrumental to a being requiring the frequent use of improvisation in
situations that involved simultaneous trains of logical operations. The
same nervous system improvements that enable advanced habit rou
tine generation and use also provide for psychedelically enlightened
operation that is productive and creative, and not just hazardous to
an animal. Here we have an additional argument against the influ
ence of psychedelic agents at an early, smallbrained stage of hominid
evolution: psychedelics would not have worked on hominids with
limited brain capabilities.
One further argument will suffice to eliminate from consider
ation an early psychedelic influence on hominid evolution. The role
of language in hominid development has been another hotly debated
topic. It is my contention that the psychedelic state of consciousness
would have been of little or no creative value for an individual, and
would have provided no evolutionary breakthrough for a social group
that did not already have the benefit of complex language abilities.
(I mentioned this above, as a reason why consciousness alteration
only became a universal with the advent of human social existence.)
Psychedelic use and its effects are most valuable as a cumulative and
social phenomenon. The psychedelic experience must not only be
individually integrated but socially integrated as well, if it is to provide
a key to rapid cultural advance as happened, for example, in ancient
Greece (see Note 16). There must arise a psychedelic culture, which
is transmitted and developed from one generation to the next, and
through which shamanism can arise and prosper. Without symbolic
language, it is difficult to see how such a process might happen. Once
a fairly complex language ability had evolved, however, we may imag
ine that psychedelic experience would have provided an impetus for
further important language development into abilities concerned with
the expression of the abstract, the mythical, the artistic...language
capable of elaborating and transmitting tradition and ritual, a hallmark
of culture.
Whereas written language is a cultural phenomenon, which
must be taught (a child who is not taught to read and write will
certainly not pick up the ability spontaneously), spoken language is
assimilated spontaneously. Spoken language is a biologically inherent
orgins of ps ychedelia / 95

feature of the human brain, a realization that became apparent to

the linguist Noam Chomsky several decades ago. Steven Pinker, a
former student of Chomsky, has made several conclusions concern
ing language and its evolution which are pertinent to a hypothesis of
the time period in which psychedelic influence might have played a
role in human evolution.19 On the strength of much recent research,
Pinker concludes that the first anatomically modern humans already
spoke the equivalent of modern human language. Since language is
intrinsic to the brain structures that produce and interpret it, language
must have coevolved with those structures, and have been fully real
ized with the advent of the brain with which it coevolved. Spoken
language was therefore not invented at a late stage of that evolution,
(although reading and writing most certainly were). Since language is
inherently a social phenomenon, this proposed coevolution of brain
and language fits nicely with the Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis
of brain advances being driven by social requirements, including the
advancement of language capability.
Pinker notes, therefore, that language did not first appear in
the Upper Paleolithic beginning about 30,000 years ago, contrary
to claims frequently seen in archaeological...and popular science
treatments.20 The idea that psychedelics would not have worked on
our smallbrained forbears such as Australopithecus is supported by the
proposed necessity of the existence of complex language as a precursor
for the beneficial influence of psychedelics, and considerably narrows
the time frame in which such influence must have played its role.
Using conclusions from linguistics and brain evolution, we see that
such a time frame should extend from about 150 Ka to 50 Ka (thou
sand years ago). I shall further narrow this window of opportunity for
psychedelic influence in my arguments to follow. The important con
clusion which has just been developed is that psychoactive plants in
the environment cannot have played any significant role in either the
early development of language, nor in the parallel development and
tripling in size of the hominid brain during the period from about 3
Ma to the appearance of anatomically modern humans about 150 Ka.

Genetics to the Rescue

The suggestion of an evolutionary scenario for human development

attempts to establish an actual series of events in history, even if the
period will for the most part remain a prehistoric one. Considering

the very fragmentary evidence in the fossil record, and the indirect
nature of other modern evidence to be described below, the chance
for error in proposing the story of how Early Man made his way
out of Eden is humbling. As we have seen above, the first theory
of psychedelic evolution, that of McKenna, has suffered terminally
from a dose of counterargument all too easily supplied by the critics.
Much of McKennas book remains admirable, however; for instance,
his presentation of evidence indicating the probable importance of
psychedelic plants for the very early tribal societies that lived on
the Tassili Plateau of southern Algeria, or atal Hyk in central
Anatolia. These are examples, along with ancient Greece and the
Eleusinian Mysteries, which illustrate the rapid flowering of culture
possible in societies in which there is strong, if not incontrovertible
evidence of psychedelic use. The importance of psychedelics for early
man certainly suggests an important evolutionary influence as well.
The trick is to deduce, using a wide variety of ancient and mod
ern evidence, when and where, and why, that evolutionary influence
might have taken place. Let me start by considering some modern
reinterpretations of the fossil evidence which have recently received
overwhelming support from one of sciences most recent and fascinat
ing developments, molecular genetics.
Chris Stringer, who is today the head of the Human Origins
Group of the Natural History Museum in London, recounts a most
interesting tale of scientific discovery in his recent book, African Exo
dus, coauthored by the science writer Robin McKie. It is the kind
of story that has epitomized the romance and excitement of scientific
discovery and revolution as perceived by the lay public, stories such
as the Curies discovery of radium or Galileos road to revolutionary
views of the heavens. But not only is the story of these recent dis
coveries concerning human origins of interest to the general public,
it represents a Kuhnian scientific revolution21 of important scope,
comparable to the recent revolution in geology with the advent of
the discovery of plate tectonics, or even the revolution in physics
earlier in the twentieth century.
The first chapters of African Exodus are concerned with a close
examination of the archaeological bones and stones, in which Dr.
Stringer shows how the Multiregional Hypothesis22 of human evolu
tion, the predominant model for most of the last century, has just
recently been discredited in favor of an OutofAfrica (actually, an
OutofAfrica II)23 model. A new mathematical technique, multivari
orgins of ps ychedelia / 97

ate analysis, used by Dr. Stringer during his several years of work on
the fossils, led him to doubt the validity of the multiregional theory
early on in his career. But only a small minority of paleoanthropolo
gists were ready to listen to new analyses of fossil characteristics that
called into question the status quo of their profession, for many great
scientists of the past decades had analyzed these same fossils and there
was wide consensus that a multiregional scenario was the correct one.
The upheavals and conflicts typical of a newly born scientific revo
lution ensued. A revolutionary new idea proposed by a small group
of scientists, at first rejected as absurd by the establishment, soon
began to topple that establishment. Chris Stringer and Robin McKie
introduce the book:

For the past few years, a small group of scientists has been
accumulating evidence that has revolutionised our awareness
of ourselves, and our animal origins. They have shown that
we belong to a young species, which rose like a phoenix
from a crisis which threatened its very survival, and then
conquered the world in a few millennia. The story is an
intriguing and mysterious one, and it challenges many basic
assumptions we have about ourselves....It is a remark
able, and highly controversial narrative that has generated
headlines round the world and which has been the subject
of a sustained programme of vilification by scientists who
have spent their lives committed to the opposing view that
we have an ancient, millionyearold ancestry. The debate,
which reverberates in museums, universities and learned
institutions across the world, is one of the most bitter in
the history of science.24

What finally broke the dam of resistance to the new ideas was
the entry upon the scene of revolutionary new techniques from a field
that had previously played no role whatever in paleoanthropology,
molecular genetics. Until very recently, the possibility that we might
learn something about the evolution of our distant ancestors by study
ing the genetic makeup of living humans was hardly even suspected,
and of course the techniques for doing so completely unknown. But
all this changed rapidly as the science of molecular genetics grew from
its infancy in the 1960s to the powerful tool it is today. The use of
genetic analysis for understanding evolution, the science of molecular

anthropology, also had its beginning the 1960s, with the pioneering
work of Allan Wilson (later to be a key player in the confirmation
of the OutofAfrica scenario) and Vincent Sarich. It was their early
work that began to topple many sacred cows of paleoanthropology, the
first to fall being the idea that apes and humans had diverged very
early, between fifteen and thirty Ma. By comparing protein structures
of modern apes and man, Wilson and Sarich concluded that the
separation could have been no earlier than 5 Ma. We were variously
ignored, abused and scorned, recalls Sarich. But it was the first of
many venerable precepts of paleoanthropology that was to fall to the
new techniques of genetic analysis. The research of Wilson and the
many others who followed came along at precisely the right time to
resoundingly confirm the early work of Stringer.
Stringer and McKie mention in their introduction above that
our species rose like a phoenix from a crisis which threatened its
very survival, and propose later on in the book the occurrence of a
population bottleneck sometime about 100 to 150 Ka. The possibility
of such a bottleneck has also drawn criticism from defenders of the
orthodoxy, yet again the genetic evidence has come to the forefront
to support the proposal.
The genetic evidence in question was not at first concerned
with the DNA of the cell nuclei, which are found in every cell of
the body and are responsible for control of the growing embryo and
inheritance of physical traits, but DNA contained the mitochondria
of these same cells. These small structures within animal cells act
like metabolic powerpacks, enabling the biochemical reactions which
provide the cell with energy. That these structures contain their own
DNA, entirely different from nuclear DNA, is something of a curi
osity, and has led to speculation that very early on in evolution,
mitochondria might have been a separate organism that developed a
symbiotic relationship with primitive singlecelled life forms to enable
the evolution of the first true singlecelled animals. Whatever their
evolutionary story, the mitochondria and their independently orga
nized DNA strands have provided an important key for the under
standing of hominid evolution. Two specific characteristics of mtDNA
(mitochondrial DNA) figure importantly: Firstly, mtDNA is trans
mitted only through the female lineage, since the mitochondria of
sperm reside in the cells extranuclear protoplasm, and do not enter
the egg at fertilization. Thus, mtDNA provides a powerful tool for
orgins of ps ychedelia / 99

tracing genealogies in animals and reconstructing recent evolutionary

trees. Secondly, mtDNA has a relatively high and constant rate of
random mutation which is conveniently analyzed, thus constituting
a molecular clock providing genetic markers for accurately trac
ing migration and fissioning in human societies. A recent paper by
Rebecca L. Cann, an early associate of Allan C. Wilson, explains
more fully the peculiarities of mtDNA which result in its being such
a powerful tool for the study of evolution. Concerning the bottleneck
hypothesis resulting from mtDNA studies she recounts:

When I began my study of mtDNA in the late 1970s

with Dr. Allan C. Wilson, one of his postdoctoral fellows,
Dr. Wesley Brown, was writing up his work on a study
of 21 human mtDNAs. Dr. Brown had discovered that
using restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs),
humans as a species looked different to other mammals.
He found that in comparison to two chimpanzees, or two
gorillas, or two orangutans, or two gibbons, or even two
pocket gophers, humans had only onehalf to onefifth of
the intraspecific variability seen in our closest primate rela
tives and other genetically wellcharacterized mammals. In
1980, Brown proposed that the level of variability sampled
in his study was consistent with the derivation of the
human mitochondrial sequence from a single female about
200,000 years ago. This was the origin of the bottleneck
hypothesis and mitochondrial Eve.25

The mitochondrial Eve hypothesis naturally made big head

lines, was featured on the cover of such magazines as Time and News
week, and also quite naturally was journalistically exaggerated out
of all proportion to the original claims. A concerted attack by the
multiregionalist old guard also helped to make the new idea sound
a bit absurd, both to the public and to scientists in other fields not
yet acquainted with the genetic evidence. All the criticisms have been
adequately countered however, and the findings confirmed by newer
and more complete studies, including studies on the nuclear DNA.
Rebecca Cann was careful to explain, in the above quoted paper,
the intended interpretation of the hypothesis concerning the possible
number of individuals existing at the time of the proposed bottleneck.

Since mtDNA is passed on only through the female lineage, the exis
tence of a mitochondrial Eve does not imply that our nuclear DNA
is also descended from a single individual, nor that at one point the
human lineage was reduced to a single, or mere handful of individu
als (the Biblical Eve scenario!) Recent estimates of the number of
individuals existing at the time of the bottleneck, including that of
Chris Stringer, puts the number at perhaps ten thousand.26 It may be
argued that a population of ten thousand individuals is not what one
could call a genetic bottleneck, yet the sum of the genetic evidence
indicates that there were at least 100,000 adult archaic forebears of
our Africa ancestors about 200,000 years ago.27 Thus, a decrease to
ten thousand individuals is certainly a population crash indicative
of important events in the early evolution of modern man.
As for the date of the lifetime of mitochondrial Eve, there
have been various estimates between the extremes of about 60 to 400
Ka based on several different methods of mtDNA analysis. Some best
estimates put the life of mitochondrial Eve at about 130 to 140 Ka,
the date of origin of modern humans.28 The uncertainties in these
several estimates may be narrowed by considering data from other
fields of study, and from a view of the overall evolutionary scenario
that emerges upon consideration of all the information at our disposal,
including my own hypotheses of the influence of psychedelics on
the overall process. Using all these sources, a reasonably constrained
sequence of events with fairly accurate dates becomes possible.

The Trigger Event

In looking at the combined evidence from new interpretations of the

stones and bones (Chris Stringers findings), the genetic evidence
(now far more convincing than just a few years ago), and other pieces
of the puzzle, Stringer and other workers have come to the conclusion
that there must have been some kind of unusual event, some cata
lyst, some kind of trigger, which set in motion the very rapid rise
of human culture and civilization which began a mere few moments
ago on an evolutionary scale.29 The strong evidence for a population
bottleneck, during which time individuals existed who were our sole
ancestors, and the ensuing rapid migration and rapid rise of human
culture in every corner of the earth, has led these workers to ask a
orgins of ps ychedelia / 101

central and important question for which they have not yet formu
lated an answer. Stringer and McKie write:

It was one of the critical events in mankinds convoluted

route to evolutionary success. The nature of the trigger
of this great social upheaval is still hotly debated, but
remains a mystery at the heart of our progress as a spe
cies. Was it a biological, mental or social event that sent
our species rushing pellmell towards world domination?
Was it the advent of symbolic language, the appearance
of the nuclear family as the basic element of human social
structure, or a fundamental change in the workings of the
brain? Whatever the nature of the change, it has a lot to
answer for. It transformed us from minor bit players in a
zoological soap opera into evolutionary superstars, with all
the attendant dangers of vanity, hubris and indifference to
the fate of others that such an analogy carries with it.30

Reading this paragraph in African Exodus when it was first published,

I realized I had been for several years working on ideas that consti
tuted the very answer sought by this recent revolution in thinking
about human evolution. It was a falling into place of pieces of a
puzzle which justified so much earlier wild speculation, a realization
that practically by accident I had found a key that many others were
actively searching for which would enable the opening of a door to
an important future in understanding.
Rebecca Cann writes,

We often wonder if language played a part of the pro

cess, and that our ancestors all had some new mutations
which allowed them to spread, at the expense of the other
indigenous peoples. [Results of genetic research] suggest
the spread of our ancestors was rapid, with little mixing.31

Although language certainly played a part in the process, as I have

already discussed, the identity of the trigger, the origin of the popu
lation bottleneck, the reason behind mans migration to the ends of
the earth, the factor enabling the rapid rise of culture independently
in all these regions, the factor behind the ability of the new homi

nids to outcompete all former races of archaic man, the secret of the
birth of the human race, may all be intimately related to one and
the same phenomenon: the advent of socially relevant psychoactive
plant use by a regionally isolated group of protohumans somewhere
in Africa. Such use might then have spread with the spread of the
descendants of this core group of individuals, mimicking a population
bottleneck in that psychoactive use and the advantages it provided
were closely guarded secrets not evident or available to competing
tribes. As I stated previously, if a member of a competing tribe were
to use the new medicine, it would only serve to isolate him from
his own group. Psychoactive use could then have been at once the
reason for an apparent but not necessarily absolute bottleneck, and
also the trigger, the key that enabled this original group to expand
and prosper by virtue of the cognitive advantages provided by the
cumulative effects of psychoactive use. These advantages, I remind
the reader, concern a new and powerful ability to suspend a mode of
existence entirely governed by habit routine. The advanced ape that
was our predecessor necessarily had, as I have stated above, the most
complete, one might say irrevocable dependence on habit routine of
any animal yet evolved, a dependence entirely precluding the use of
the most advanced nervous system ever evolved for creative purposes.

Climate Change

But what of that other facilitating factor I mentioned before, the

one that would allow psychedelic use to become important and not
just an infrequent and disorienting event for single individuals who
might then be expelled from their group? Some environmental or
social situation must have resulted in the frequent use of psychedel
ics by a significant proportion of the core group, and psychedelic use
must then have rapidly become part and parcel of the social structure
of the group. There are several possibilities. Here another body of
research information on climate change becomes important, for dur
ing the proposed period between 60 Ka and 200 Ka, drastic climatic
changes were occurring on a timescale certain to disrupt all life on
the planet, especially those advanced forms of life so dependent on
social complexity and a diversified diet.
In view of the best estimates for the time slot for the population
bottleneck and mitochondrial Eve (about 133 Ka),32 a particular peri
orgins of ps ychedelia / 103

od of climatic history stands out: the Eemian interglacial period. Dur

ing the Eemian, warm, wet, and tropical conditions extended much
farther north than at present. The fossil evidence shows that hippo
potamuses browsed along the banks of the Thames and the Rhine,
while lions and elephants roamed the forests of southern England.
Until recently, the Eemian interglacial period was thought to have
been a stable climatic period lasting from about 130 Ka to 114 Ka,
when the beginning of the last ice age commenced. Climatic infor
mation has been obtained from such methods as analysis of ocean
sediment cores, pollen cores from terrestrial sources, and ice cores
drilled in such locations as Antarctica and Greenland. A recent ice
core analysis from Greenland however, has given us a radically new
view of the Eemain climatic era, indicating that it was not a period
of stability but rather one of wild climatic oscillations:

The early part of the Eemian was dominated by several

oscillations between warm and cool stages. The temperature
dropped by as much as 10 degrees, sometimes within as short
a time as ten to thirty years. Some cold spells lasted a few
decades, while others lasted several hundred years. After
8000 years of fluctuating conditions, the climate settled into
a period of stable warmth lasting some 2000 years. This
warm period ended abruptly...when the temperature in
Greenland dropped about 14 C within ten years.33

Such a period as the early Eemain seems to provide exactly the

kind of opportunities for the disruption and crisis conditions for groups
of human predecessors that would lead to the discovery of psychedelic
use. Several times there must have been abrupt changes in habitabil
ity of various regions, with changes in flora and fauna and resulting
dietary pressures, food shortages, the encroachment of and conflict
with neighboring tribes, the possible occurrence of new diseases and
a resulting search for medicinal remedies promoting population move
ments, in essence, frequent turmoil. If modern chimpanzees have the
need to roam far and wide to procure their necessary diet including
fungi, rotten wood, insects, bark, shoots, we may safely assume that
protoman had similar if not even greater exigencies. If uprooted from
a home ground, or if rapid climate change forced him to experiment
with new foods, an opportunity for the social discovery and use of
psychedelic plants becomes important.

In the case of edible fungi today, for example, it is well known

that many, if not the majority of cases of poisoning result when indi
viduals or groups, newly arrived in an area, see and consume a mush
room that they had always safely consumed in their previous home
region. Many mushrooms look nearly identical, and some fungi species
are known to be safe in one region, yet toxic in another. A changing
climate might well alter a fungal species, changing its visible charac
teristics or production of metabolites. Some recent work has shown
that fungi tend to proliferate at far greater rates in a tropical, CO2
rich climate, as must have existed during the Eemian.34 In these facts
we see a possible, if not probable mechanism whereby a group of our
ancestors might have discovered the use of a psychedelic mushroom
or other plant, in which the discovery involved the use of that plant
by the entire group, and for an extended period of time. The likeli
hood of widespread existence of unfamiliar and unusual species of
alkaloidcontaining plants is, of course, much higher in the tropical
and humid, and fluctuating, conditions of the Eemian, rather than
during the dry, cold, and barren ice age conditions that preceded it.
And the dates of the climatic disruptions of the early Eemian that
might have led to such a discovery match nicely the mtDNA evidence
of a population bottleneck.
The Eemian might well have been the period of mankinds first
important exposure to psychedelic drugs, for by 90 Ka we see the
appearance of sophisticated bone harpoons and knives in what is
now Zaire, a level of technology that was not seen in Europe until
fifty thousand years later.35 But we should not expect that the initial
psychedelic exposure would have led to rapid cultural change as we
would today define it. Evidence from studies of primitive yet eco
logically stable and wise tribal societies indicates that psychedelic use
and the associated rise of shamanism does not automatically propel
a society toward building automobiles and atom bombs, but, rather,
preferentially enables another kind of creativity involving tradition,
stability, and equilibrium. Some of the oldest of tribal societies, those
that have been discovered in New Guinea, or in the backwaters of
the Amazon basin, or the vast tundra of the Siberian wilderness, all
have a long tradition of psychedelically influenced shamanism, and
have remained stable for many thousands of years. If we should look
at such a society and call it primitive, their practices being seen as
backward and ignorant, how much more so may such a stable and
ecological society view the alltooobvious happenings and extrapo
orgins of ps ychedelia / 105

lations of twentiethcentury Civilization? Our view today of what

constitutes progress and civilized living has practically nothing in
common with the views of hundreds, even thousands of societies that
have come before, and lasted far longer than our recent experiment
in progress. With a little luck, the remnants of an isolated tribe or
two may well survive us.
A psychedelically enlightened society does not at all produce
rampant technological change, just for the sake of change. They do
not fly to the moon just because it is there, or to impress and pro
pagandize tribal members with their supposed superiority over a rival
tribe in some cold war scenario. A psychedelically enabled society
does, however, make rapid advances of a creative nature in response
to real challenges such as climate change, the necessity to emigrate
to new regions, the avoidance of disease and a search for new medi
cines (chimpanzees and even elephants have been shown to inten
tionally search out and consume effective medicinals as required).
But in periods of climatic and resource stability the psychedelically
enabled society also exhibits an ecological stability: it has the power
and intelligence to make creative changes as it pleases, and chooses
consciously to remain in equilibrium with nature. What could be more
illustrative of wisdom than this? In times of stability, psychedelically
enabled tribes produce myth, art, they use their creative powers to
elaborate tradition, the hallmark of culture; they do not spend their
time in petty schemes to conquer nature, or exploit reality, or develop
backward regions. Perhaps the longterm lesson that is taught by
the psychedelic experience is that the human animal, having evolved
slowly over millions of years, is illequipped to handle sudden large
advances in technology, which have historically resulted very reli
ably in mass production of weapons, ecological destruction, genocide,
waste, and the collapse of civilizations. Surely there is a better use
for creativity than this.
The point here is to give a better view of what a psychedelically
enabled tribe, at the advent of the human race, might do with its
powers of creativity. If our original African ancestors began the use
of psychedelic agents as the first step toward an organized shaman
ism, only our modern illusions of what constitutes progress would
predict that such a society, if truly a society of man, would rapidly
invent and amass technology. A broader view would predict that what
would be amassed by the true Homo sapiens would be techniques of
living exhibiting a consciously designed harmony and ecology, leading

to longlasting modes of tribal life changing only slowly with time.

Psychedelically enlightened tribes would optimally remain stable for
millennia. To restate: creativity in such a group would involve the
creation and preservation of myth and ritual, the gradual perfection
of a style of living, the elaboration of tradition, not a headlong rush
into exploitation of resources and a supposed domination of nature.
Thus, our originally psychedelically enlightened ancestors, the
first humans, would have spread slowly and surely from their original
home, perhaps in East Africa, and carried with them such traditions
of stability and longevity. Only severe challenges to their survival
and continuation would result in their use of the creative power to
make radical changes in their technology and lifestyle. Before long,
even a slow migration would have brought descendants of the original
core group into the Middle East, as evidenced by fossils of modern
humans in Israel dated at 100 Ka.36 We must remember that climatic
changes after the end of the Eemian, although following a general
tendency toward the next ice age, continued to include occasional
but abrupt reversals, as is shown by the recent Greenland ice core
studies. Migration was likely, therefore, to have been a sporadic hap
pening, as certain habitats and food sources changed. Considering
these tribes penchant for stability, intentional migration, just for the
sake of migration, was unlikely. The spread of our ancestors would
therefore have been slow and occasional, initiated by the occasional
climatic upheavals and other environmental challenges such as vol
canic eruption, changing food supplies, occurrence and avoidance of
diseases, and perhaps the search for new medicines and psychedelic
plants. We know from anthropological studies how important are the
recommendations of the shamans for decisions taken by tribal elders,
and it is thus possible that shamans also greatly influenced decisions
of our early ancestors concerning their movements. The shamans
use and search for psychedelic plants may well have initiated some
early migrations.
It is necessary to understand the above described tendencies that
would naturally follow our original psychedelic enlightenment to see
why modern culture as we know it did not get underway for more
than sixty thousand years. Tradition and stability reigned for many
thousands of years while a slow migration brought human ancestors to
Europe, Asia, and finally the Americas. But the flowering of modern
culture did not really get underway until forty thousand years ago,
when art and body ornamentation, sophisticated bone tools, built
orgins of ps ychedelia / 107

hearths and structured living spaces, open site religious burials, stor
age pits and social storage, quarries, the long distance exchange of raw
materials, longterm occupation of harsh environments, and signs of
complex forward planning made a wide appearance as evidenced in
the archaeological record.37 This apparently sudden appearance of the
roots of the modern age, in which the beginnings of modern tech
nology can be seen, is the phenomenon that has challenged anthro
pologists the most. If anatomically and cognitively modern humans
began their specieshood in Africa 130 Ka, why did it take so long
for the modern trend to get underway? And importantly, what was
the catalyst that precipitated this event so suddenly? Like all history,
the answers to such questions, even if they could be known, must
necessarily be very complex, a story that can be told in a multitude
of ways that might seem contradictory. Consider the myriad ways that
even recent history can be written.
But some scholars have proposed that the sudden flowering of
the modern age beginning about 40 Ka might actually have been more
gradual, and sporadic. Such ideas fit in with the above observations
on the likely characteristics of psychedelically enlightened societies.
The appearance of the previously mentioned bone harpoons in Zaire,
and other scattered evidence may well indicate that local tribes made
advances in technology in fits and starts, in response to novel chal
lenges, and then returned to long periods of stability. The appearance
of cave art seems today from modern discoveries to be rather abrupt,
yet the quality of such art would indicate a long tradition of artistic
endeavor. Certainly, the artists of the Lascaux and Cosquer caves were
no amateurs; thousands of years of tradition no doubt led up to their
remarkable artistic abilities. New discoveries of even more ancient
sites are bound to indicate that the first artists did not suddenly
appear around forty thousand years ago, but that artistic expression
was a slowly maturing phenomenon of very long duration indeed,
going back to the Eemian perhaps.
The psychedelic model of evolution of culture therefore agrees
that some recent interpretations of evidence indicating a sudden
flowering of culture beginning about 40 Ka is too drastic. Alison
Brooks, an archeologist who with John Yellen made the important
finds in Zaire, states:

A closer scrutiny of the archeological record leads one

to inquire, Just how abrupt was the behavioral transition

in Europe? I believe that the gulf between the Middle

Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic has been artificially
widened by deemphasizing the very real evidence of cultural
complexity in the former and overstressing the achieve
ment of early modern humans, who, in Europe, did not
achieve all of the behaviors usually cited as part of the
Upper Paleolithic revolution until the very end of the
Pleistocene [near ten thousand years ago].38

One final surmise about the trigger events that may have contin
ued to push Early Man along the road to modern civilization will bring
this chapter to a close. If, according to my theory, there was a gradual
evolution of culture during the seventy thousand years between the
Eemian and the period in which the beginnings of modern culture are
deemed to have begun forty thousand years ago, then we might look
for the rapid, yet sporadic and geographically independent advances
in culture and technology to coincide with known instances of rapid
climatic change, with instances of severe volcanic activity or other
known or tobediscovered radical environmental influences during
the period. It will certainly be interesting to compare further detailed
analyses of the new Greenland ice cores to known and future archeo
logical discoveries in an attempt to correlate cultural change with
environmental disruption. Perhaps there will never be enough evi
dence to write history about such prehistoric times, but intriguing
clues and parallel developments may well appear that will at least
allow the writing of a probable scenario.
The question of how geographically isolated groups of modern
men all developed astounding cultural and technological advances,
and how at least two dozen different regional societies of men expe
rienced along with such changes a dramatic increase in population,
has been a puzzle for many archaeologists, linguists, anthropologists,
and other workers. In the words of Chris Stringer and Robin McKie,

It is an extraordinary catalogue of achievements that seem

to have come about virtually from nowherethough obvi
ously they did have a source. The question is: what was
it? Did we bring the seeds of this mental revolution with
us when we began our African Exodus, though its effects
were so subtle they took another 50,000 years to accumu
late before snowballing into a cultural and technological
orgins of ps ychedelia / 109

avalanche that now threatens to engulf Homo sapiens? Or

did that final change occur later, and was it therefore more
profound, and much speedier in its effects?39

I believe the answer is neither of these, or rather a combination of

the two: the seeds of the revolution were indeed carried by Homo
sapiens from his birthplace in Africa, but they were seeds that needed
periodic stimulation to grow vigorously. As I have argued, psychedelic
wisdom does not of itself propel societies to produce a technological
avalanche nor should we believe that technological avalanches
are inherently good. Psychedelic wisdom, rather, leads to ecology,
stability, and longevity. But when novel and severe challenges present
themselves to psychedelically enabled societies, they are able to react
intelligently and with foresight and complex longrange planning.
This is perhaps the most important difference between the true Homo
sapiens and his animal forebears.

The Long Winter

Thus, the periodic and now wellestablished abrupt climatic upheavals

of the postEemian world became the catalyst which successively and
cumulatively forced tribes of men living in many isolated areas of the
globe to use their Godlike powers of creativity to advance technology
in the interests of survival and stability. An ice age was approach
ing, with fits and starts, and global climatic change was frequent and
severe. If the cognitive seeds existed, dormant in the sense of not
automatically producing technological change at a rate we moderns
believe essential to our species, and these seeds existed in all the
societies of men around the globe, the fact of climatic change being a
global phenomenon would explain how these seeds flowered, or were
forced to grow independently in all these regions.
During the postEemian period, changes in the earths orbit were
responsible for the climatic disruption and slow onset of a new ice
age. But such orbital changes have sometimes been hypothesized as
the catalyst for increased volcanic activity as well. Whatever the
cause, at least one extremely severe volcanic eruption occurred dur
ing the period leading up to that famous starting date for the begin
ning of modern technology and, in line with my proposals, may have
been a major event pushing tribal societies around the world toward

radical changes in the effort to survive. Stringer and McKie tell of

the eruption:

The Earth was gripped by continuing climatic mayhem

as changes in its orbit began inexorably to push down
the worlds thermostat. Then to add to these woes, about
74,000 years ago, Mount Toba on the island of Sumatra
exploded in the largest volcanic eruption of the past 450
million years. The blast was 4,000 times more powerful
than that of Mount St Helens and would have sent more
than 1,000 cubic kilometres of dust and ash into the atmo
sphere, plunging the earth into yearslong volcanic winters.
Summer temperatures could have dropped by as much as
twelve degrees centigrade, while forests shrank, deserts
spread, and in eastern Asia, a prolonged winter monsoon
would have swept clouds of dust from inland deserts round
the globe....Having evolved in warm Savannah sun we
nearly perished, huddled in cold dismal misery as volcanic
plumes straddled the earth.40

Examination of some recent charts of sea levels and estimated

prevailing temperatures reveals that this event seems to have brought
on the most severe period of the last ice age. The postEemian climate
between 115 Ka to 75 Ka is now known to be more changeable,
the Greenland ice core data showing several abrupt reversals, yet
the same data show that after a significant warming period peaking
about 75 Ka to 80 Ka, a severe decline then led into the very coldest
period of the ice age. The whole of the postEemian climatic turmoil
may well have been the partner to those original African seeds of
modern culture, which required such periodic stimulation to grow.
The volcanic eruption might have been one of the most important
instances driving societies to improvise and find technological solu
tions in order to survive. The aftermath of the Mount Toba event
would have disrupted flora and fauna worldwide, it would have caused
food shortages, driven intentional and planned migration in search of
resources, brought about wide experimentation with new foods and
medicinal plants, and perhaps even led to the appearance of new or
altered species of psychedelic plants such as the fungi that might have
proliferated in the wake of widespread forest death and an abundance
of decaying vegetation. Psilocybe cyanescens, for example, usually a
orgins of ps ychedelia / 111

fairly rare species, thrives in decaying woody debris and in colder

climes. It is also one of the more powerful Psilocybe species.
Since all the previous climatic changes of the Eemian were fairly
gradual, taking at a minimum several years to develop, it becomes
difficult to choose a specific one as a candidate for the trigger event
leading to social psychoactive use. But in the Toba eruption and
succeeding volcanic winter, we have an extremely abrupt event that
surely caused the kinds of disruption required to change habits over
night. Thus, the Toba eruption, although occurring a bit late for other
parts of the argument here, might well have been the initial trigger
event. This possible scenario does tie in with some further important
evidence, however.


If the Toba eruption is to be our catalytic event, looking for a

geographical location where that first psychedelically enabled tribe
might have evolved would lead us to the Abyssinian highlands
of Ethiopia, a possible area of refuge and retreat for our original
ancestors who were previously living in the Herto region, a lowland
coastal region to the east. A recent BBC report places the earliest yet
discovered anatomically modern humans there: a 160,000yearold
fossil find shows that modern, yet still protohuman beings existed
there in a state of prehuman stasis for a very long time indeed. The
Highlands to the west of the Herto were a place where they might
have escaped the drought and starvation the Toba eruption must
have produced. It is of course impossible to say what psychedelic
plants might have existed there at the time, with the radical climate
disruption ongoing.
It is certainly a difficult task to sift and weigh all these factors in
the attempt to propose a concise scenario for psychedelic influence on
early man. Two or more seemingly contradictory scenarios might well
have happened simultaneously in different regions, or consecutively.
The idea of psychedelic evolution is still too new, and much more
work will have to take place with these new hypotheses in mind,
trying to prove and disprove the many resulting implications before
we can decide on a likely scenario. As I have said, this task is more
than just the construction of a temporary model, it is an attempt to
discover actual history and subject to real error.


1.M. Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton: Princ

eton University Press, 1964) (original edition in French, Librarie Payot, 1951).
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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968).
3. H. P. Duerr, Tempo di sogno (Milano: Guarini, 1992).
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CA: Alta Mira Press, 2001.
8. C. Boyd, Pictographic Evidence of Peyotism in the Lower Pecos,
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nal for Mind Moving Plants and Culture 2, no. 3 (1992): 6978.
11. G. Samorini, Funghi allucinogeni. Studi etnomicologici (Dozza [BO]:
Telesterion, 2001).

Chapter 1. Foundations of the Research

1.A. LeroiGourhan, Le religioni della preistoria (Milano: Rizzoli,
1970), 6. Original publication: Les religions de la Prhistoire (Paris: PUF, 1964).

114 / Notes to chapter 1

2.G. Grana, Linvenzione di Dio (Vol. I) (Roma: Setup, 2000.

3.H. P. Duerr, Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilder-
ness and Civilization (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987).
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inghieri, 2001.
5. J. D. LewisWilliams and T. A. Dowson, On Vision and Power in
the Neolithic: Evidence from the Decorated Monuments, Current Anthropol-
ogy 34, no. 1 (1993): 5565.
6.F. Gosso, and G. Camilla, Allucinogeni e Cristianesimo. Evidenze
nellarte sacra (Paderno Dugnano [MI]: Colibr, 2007).
7.E. Anati, La religione delle origini, Studi Camuni, Vol. XIV (Capo
di Ponte [BS]: Edizioni del Centro, 1995).
8.P. Coppo, Culture, enteogeni, tecnologie del sacro e Stati Non
Ordinari di Coscienza, Altrove 8 (2001): 1115.
9.Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (Prince
ton: Princeton University Press, 1973). Original 1949 publication in German:
Ursprungsgeschichte des Bewusstseins.
10. J. Gebser, The EverPresent Origin (Athens, OH: Ohio University
Press, 1985). Original edition 1949.
11. M. Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolu-
tion of Culture and Cognition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).
12.G. Costa, Le origini della lingua poetica indeuropea. Voce, coscienza
e transizione neolitica (Firenze: Olschki, 1998), 18990.
13. J. D. LewisWilliams, and T. A. Dowson, The Signs of All Times:
Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic Art, Current Anthropology 29,
no. 2(1988): 20145.
14.K. Wellmann, Rock art, Shamans, Phosphenes, and Hallucino
gens in North America, Boll. Camuno St. Preist. 18 (1981): 89103.
15. Lewis-Williams and Dowson, The Signs of All Times: 217.
16. Lewis-Williams and Dowson, On Vision and Power in the Neo
lithic: Evidence from the Decorated Monuments, op. cit.
17. J. Dronfield, Migraine, Light, and Hallucinogens: The Neurocog
nitive Basis of Irish Megalithic Art, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 14, no.
3 (1995): 26175.
18. F. Gosso, Sul possibile significato dellarte parietale del Paleolitico
superiore nellarea francocantabrica, in Art and Communication in Preliterate
Societies/Arte e comunicazione nelle societ preletterate, PreAtti del XXIV Val
camonica Symposium 1318 luglio 2011 (Capo di Ponte [BS]: Jaca Book/
Edizioni del Centro, 2011), 21219.
19. Grant S. McCall, Add Shamans and Stir? A Critical Review of
the Shamanism Model of Forager Rock Art Production, Journal of Anthro-
pological Archaeology 26, no. 2 (2007): 22433.
Notes to chapter 1 / 115

20. M. Lorblanchet, JL. Le Quellec, P. Bahn, HP. Francfort, B. Del

luc, and G., Delluc, eds., Chamanisme et Arts Prhistoriques: vision critique
(Paris: Errance, 2006.
21. J. Geml, G. A. Laursen, K. ONeill, H. C. Nusbaum, D. L. Taylor,
Beringian Origins and Cryptic Speciation Events in the Fly Agaric (Amanita
muscaria), Molecular Ecology 15, no. 1(2006): 22539.
22.R. E. Schultes, and A., Hofmann, The Botany and Chemistry of
Hallucinogens (Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1992; R. E. Schultes, Antiquity
of the Use of New World Hallucinogens, The Heffter Review of Psychedelic
Research 1 (1998): 17.
23. J. H. Howard, The Mescal Bean Cult of the Central and Southern
Plains: An Ancestor of the Peyote Cult?, American Anthropol. 59 (1957):
24. D. Piomelli, One Route to Religious Ecstasy, Nature 349 (1991):
25. Schultes and Hofmann, The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens,
op. cit.
26. S. Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious (New York: E. P. Dut
ton, 1976).
27.A. Huxley, Mescaline and the Other World, from Proceedings
of the Round Table on LSD and Mescaline in Experimental Psychiatry. Annual
Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Atlantic City, NJ, May 12,
1955 (New York: Grune and Stratton, 1956), 4650.
28.W. Van Lommel, R. Van Wees, V. Meyers, and I. Elfferich,
NearDeath Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study
in the Netherlands, The Lancet 358 (2001): 203945.
29.A. Rozwadowski, Sun Gods or Shaman? Interpreting the
SolarHead Petroglyphs of Central Asia, in The Archaeology of Shaman-
ism, ed. N. S. Price (London/New York: Routledge, 2001), 6586.
30. J. Clottes, and J. D., LewisWilliams, Les chamanes de la prhistoire
(Paris: Seuil, 1996).
31. U. Sansoni, and S. Gavaldo, Lipotesi sciamanica nellarte rupes
tre della Valcamonica: note per unindagine, in Autori Vari, Prehistoric and
Tribal Art: Shamanism and Myth (Capo di Ponte [BS]: Centro Camuno di
Studi Preistorici, 1998).
32. E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1978/2004).
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(Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1973). Revised edition 2010.
34.T. Pievani, Le molte nascite dellumanit, in M. Callari Gal
li, M. Ceruti, T. Pievani, Pensare la diversit (Roma: Meltemi, 2000), 67
116 / Notes to chapter 2

35. M. Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess (London: Thames and

Hudson, 1990/2001).
36.One must not forget that an obese or even overweight human
model, in those times, must have been a fairly rare phenomenon and that
the aesthetic criteria do not necessarily have to be similar to ours. In Africa
still today there are Sahel tribes that literally fatten the future brides with a
hypercaloric diet based on milk; in the Delta of the Niger the time of passage
from adolescence to adult age is marked for girls by a complex ritual called
Iria, with a similar purpose.
37. R. Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth,
Amended and Enlarged Edition (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1966).
38.On the shamanic and prehistoric origin of the poetic language
see also: F. Benozzo, Sciamani europei e trovatori occitani, Simboli e miti
della tradizione sciamanica, Universit di Bologna, 45 maggio 2006, in www.
39. R. Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future (San
Francisco: Harper and Row, 2006).

Chapter 2. The Sites of the Research

1.E. Anati, Arte Preistorica. Una rassegna regionale, Studi Camuni,Vol.
XXIV (Capo di Ponte [BS]: Edizioni del Centro, 2003).
2. J. D. Lewis-Williams, Neuropsychology and Upper Paleolithic Art:
Observations on the Progress of Altered States of Consciousness, Cambridge
Archaeological Journal 14, no. (2004): 10711.
3. We suggest to the reader that excellent photographic representa
tions of almost all the sites mentioned are easily found on the Internet by
searching through Google Images.
4.T. N. Campbell, Origin of the Mescal Bean Cult, American
Anthropologist 60, no. 1 (1958): 15660.
5. M. Terry, K. L. Steelman, T. Guilderson, P. Dering, M. W. Rowe,
Lower Pecos and Coahuila Peyote: New Radiocarbon Dates, Journal of
Archaeological Science 33, no. 7 (2006): 101721.
6. J. M. Adovasio, and G. F. Fry, Prehistoric Psychotropic Drug Use
in Northeastern Mexico and TransPecos Texas, Economic Botany 30 (1976):
7. C. Boyd, Pictographic Evidence of Peyotism in the Lower Pecos,
Texas Archaic, in The Archaeology of Rock-Art, ed. C. Chippindale and P.
Taon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 22946.
8.S. H. Wassen, Anthropological Survey of the Use of South
American Snuffs, in Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs, ed.
D. H. Efron B. Holmstedt, and N. S. Kline (New York: Raven, 1979 [ed.
orig.1967]), 23389; C. M. Torres, Tabletas para alucinogenos en Sudamer
Notes to chapter 2 / 117

ica: tipologia, distribucion y rutas de diffusion, Boletin del Museo Chileno de

Arte Precolombino 1 (1986): 3753.
9. J. A. Prez Golln, and I. Gordillo, Religin y Alucinogenos en
el Antiguo Noroeste Argentino, Ciencia Hoy 4, no. 22 (1993): 5056; C.
M. Torres, Archaeological Evidence for the Antiquity of Psychoactive Plant
Use in the Central Andes, Annali Musei Civici Rovereto 11 (1996): 291326.
10. D. S. Whitley, ed., Handbook of Rock Art Research (Walnut Creek,
CA: AltaMira Press, 2001).
11. Archaeological Evidence for the Antiquity of Psychoactive Plant
Use in the Central Andes, op. cit.; D. Sharon, Ethnoarchaeological Evi
dence for San Pedro (Trichocereus Pachanoi) Use in Northern Per, Eleusis
n. s., 5 (2001): 1359.
12.A. CordyCollins, Psychoactive Painted Peruvian Plants: The
Shamanism Textile, Journal of Ethnobiology 2, no. 2 (1982): 14453.
13. M. Glowacki, Food of the Gods or Mere Mortals? Hallucinogen
ic Spondylus and Its Interpretative Implications for Early Andean Society,
Antiquity 79 (2005): 25768.
14. Arte Preistorica. Una rassegna regionale, op. cit.
15. R. Hostnig, and R. Carreo Collatupa, Pusharo, un sitio rupestre
extraordinario en la selva amaznica de Madre de Dios, Per. 2006. http://
16. G. E. Pia, Myths, Shamans, and Drugs in the Ancient Rock Art of
South America, News 95International Rock Art Conference Proceedings,
Centro Studi e Museo dArte Preistorica, Pinerolo (TO), 1999.
17.P. W. Stahl, The Hallucinogenic Basis of Early Valdivia Phase
Ceramic Bowl Iconography, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 17, no. 2 (1985):
18. S. F. De Borhegyi, Miniature Stones from Guatemala, American
Antiquity (1961): 498504.
19.M. Dobkin de Rios, The Influence of Psychotropic Flora and
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Camuno St. Preist. 6, no. 2 (1989): 1822.
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riana delle teste rotonde: ulteriori evidenze, Altrove 13 (2007): 14147.
23. T. McKenna, Food of the Gods (New York: Bantam Books, 1992).
24. Arte Preistorica. Una rassegna regionale, op. cit.
25.A. Golovnev, Pegtymel, 32 min. (anthropological documentary
film) Ed. Usharova I., U.S., 2000.
26.M. Saar, Ethnomycological Data from Siberia and NorthEast
Asia on the Effect of Amanita Muscaria, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 31
(1991): 15773; G. T. Schurr, Aboriginal Siberian Use of Amanita Muscaria
in Shamanistic Practices: Neuropharmacological Effects of Fungal Alkaloids
118 / Notes to chapter 2

Used in the Induction of Trance States, and the Cultural Patterning of

Visionary Experience, CurareZeitschrift fr Ethnomedizin und transkulturelle
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27. J. D. LewisWilliams, and T. A. Dowson The Signs of All Times:
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2 (1988): 20145.
28. G. Stecchi, Cera una volta luomofungo, Natura Oggi 2, no. 2
(1984): 9297.
29. N. N. Dikov, Les ptroglyphes de Pegtymel et leur appartenance
ethnique, InterNord 12 (1972): 24561.
30.W. Jochelson, Material Culture and Social Organization of the
Koryak (1908), vol. VI, part II, Memoir of the American Museum of Natural
History, New York, in Wasson, Soma, 26869.
31. G. Camilla, Allucinogeni vegetali (Verona: Bertani, 1982).
32.R. W. Kaplan, The Sacred Mushroom in Scandinavia, Man
10 (1975): 7279; The Sacred Mushroom in Scandinavia, Rejonder to
W. Fagg, Man 12, no. 2 (1977): 33940.
33. G. Samorini, Funghi allucinogeni. Studi etnomicologici (Dozza [BO]:
Telesterion, 2001).
34. W. Fagg, The Sacred Mushroom in Scandinavia, Comment by W.
Fagg to Kaplans Article, Man 11, no. 3 (1976): 440.
35.T. I. Itkonen, Heidnische Religion und spterer Aberglaube bei den
finnischen Lappen, Vol. LXXXVII (Helsinki: Suomalaisugrilainen seura,
1946), 149.
36.L. S. dman (1784), Forsok at utur naturens historie forklara
de nodiska gamla Kampars berserkagang, Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens nya
Handlingar, in D. H., On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry, Ameri-
can Journal of Psychiatry 113 (1956): 41112.
37. V. Pico, Melethemata inauguralia (Torino: Briolo, 1788), 122.
38.P. Duvivier, Amanita muscaria. Ancient History, The Entheogen
Review 7, no. 2 (1998): 3435.
39.R. Dufrenne, La valle des merveilles et les mythologies Indo-Euro-
pennes, Studi Camuni, Vol. XVII (Capo di Ponte [BS]: Editions du Centre,
40.F. Gosso, On the Potential Use of CupMarks, Anthropology of
Consciousness 21, no. 2 (2010): 20520.
41.F. Fedele, Stadi di popolamento nelle Alpi occidentali dal neo
litico allet del Ferro, Atti Ce.S.D.I.R. VII (1975): 22767.
42.A. Tvauri, CupMarked Stones in Estonia, in Folklore (1999);
43.S. R. Berlant, The Prehistoric Practice of Personifying Mush
rooms, Journal of Prehistoric Religion 12 (1999): 2230.
44. M. B. Nichols, The FlyAgaric and the Early Scandinavian Reli
gion, Eleusis n.s., 4 (2000): 87119.
Notes to chapter 2 / 119

45. E. Anati, Le statuestele della Lunigiana (Milano: Jaca Book, 1981),

46.G. Toro, The RockArt Painting of the Balma of Mondon in
Villar Pellice (Cozie Alps, Piedmont, Italy):An Ethnomycological Interpreta
tion, International Scientific Conference on The Stone Mushrooms of Thrace,
Alexandroupolis, October 2830, 2011, forthcoming in Acts.
47. D. M. Merlin, Archaeological Evidence for the Tradition of Psy
choactive Plant Use in the Old World, Economic Botany 57, no. 3 (2003):
48. E. Guerra Doce, and J. A. Lpez Sez, El registro arqueobotnico
de plantas psicoactivas en la prehistoria de la Pennsula Ibrica, Complutum
17 (2006): 724.
49.A. Sherrat, Sacred and Profane Substances: The Ritual Use of
Narcotics in Later Neolithic Europe, in Sacred and Profane. Proceedings of a
Conference of Archaeology, Ritual, and Religion, ed. P. Garwood et al. (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1991), 5064.
50.F. Gosso, Coscienza e cartografie, I Fogli di ORISS 23 (2005):
51.S. Fairn Jimnez and E. Guerra Doce, Paisaje y Ritual: Reflex
iones sobre el contexto social del Arte Macroesquemtico, in Actas del Con-
greso de Arte Rupestre en la Espaa Mediterrnea: Alicante, 2528 de octubre
de 2004 (Juan GilAlbert: Instituto Alicantino, 2005), 8997.
52. J. A. Crcel Roche, Escenografia natural y religiosa en el santuario
de Pla de Petracos, ibid., 99110.
53.R. Geeta and W. Gharaibeh, Historical Evidence for a Pre
Columbian Presence of Datura in the Old World and Implications for a
First Millennium Transfer from the New World, Journal of Biosciences 32
(2007): 122744.
54.B. P. Akers, J. F. Ruiz, A. Piper, and C. A. P. Ruck, A Prehis
toric Mural in Spain Depicting Neurotropic Psilocybe Mushrooms? Economic
Botany (XX)X (2011): 18.
55.A. Magni, Pietre cupelliformi nuovamente scoperte nei dintor
ni di Como, Rivista Archeologica della Provincia di Como 41 (1901): 19
56. C. G. Borgna, Larte rupestre preistorica nellEuropa occidentale (Pin
erolo [TO]: STILGRAF, 1980).
57. A. Arc, La pietra e il segno (Borgone di Susa [TO]: Tipolito Melli,
1990); A. Biganzoli, Il territorio segnato. Incisioni rupestri nel Verbano, I Quad
erni-n.15 (Verbania: Museo del Paesaggio, 1998); L. Gibelli, Incisioni rupestri
alpine (Verolengo [TO]: Fratelli Pistono, 2001); A. Vaudagna, Bessa (Pollone
[Biella]: Leone & Griffa, 2002.
58.G. R. Bednarik, Reply: On cupule interpretation, Rock Art
Research 25, no. 2 (2008): 21421.
59. On the Potential Use of CupMarks, op. cit.
120 / Notes to chapter 3

60.C. Rtsch and C. MllerEbeling Lexikon der Liebesmittel. Pflan-

zliche, mineralische, tierische und synthetische. Aphrodisiaka (Aarau: AT-Verlag,
61.B. Lowy, New Records of Mushroom Stones from Guatemala,
Mycologia 63, no. 5 (1971): 98393.
62.D. H. Fabing, On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry,
American Journal of Psychiatry 113 (1956): 40915.
63. P. S. Kracheninnikov, Histoire et description du Kamtchatka (Amster
dam: Rey, 1770), 149.
64. H. G. Wells, Il pileo purpureo, in Tutti i racconti e i romanzi brevi
(Milano: Mursia, 1966).
65.U. Schwegler, Schalenund Zeichensteine der Schweiz (Basel:
Schweizerische Gesellschaft fur Urund Frhgeschichte, 1992).
66. On the Potential Use of CupMarks, op. cit.
67. CupMarked Stones in Estonia, op. cit.
68.G. R. Bednarik, Cupules, Rock Art Research 25, no. 1 (2008):
61100; R. Querejazu Lewis and R. G., Bednarik, eds. Mysterious Cup Marks:
Proceedings of the First International Cupule Conference, The International
Cupule Conference Cochabamba, Bolivia, July 1723, 2007 (Oxford: BAR,

Chapter 3. The Significance of the Research

1.AA, VV, Prehistoric and Tribal Art: New Discoveries, New Interpre-
tations, New Research Methods (DarfoBoario Terme [BS]: Centro Camuno
Studi Preistorici, 2004), 384.
2. A. Argenton, Arte preistorica e psicologia dellarte, Boll. Camuno
St. Preist. 30 (1997): 722.
3.M. Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution
of Culture and Cognition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993 [original
publication 1991]), 312.
4. J. PittRivers, Il potere spirituale nellAmerica centrale. I Nagual
del Chiapas, in Mary Douglas, La stregoneria (Torino: Einaudi, 1980), 23560.
5. G. Camilla and F. Gosso, Hanno visto migliaia di Dei..., in
Laicit e religiosit dellesperienza visionaria (Paderno Dugnano [MI]: Colibr,
2011), 5355.
6.J. D. LewisWilliams, Agency, Art, and Altered Consciousness:
A Motif in French (Quercy) Upper Palaeolithic Parietal Art, Antiquity 71,
no. 274 (1997): 81030.
7.E. Anati, Delirio e allucinazione collettiva: considerazioni per
unanalisi antropologica. 2006.
Notes to chapter 4 / 121

8.The Bible.
9. L. Moraldi, (a cura di), Testi gnostici (Torino: UTET, 1982), 240.
A translation also to be found at
10.F. Gosso, Coscienza e cartografie, I Fogli di ORISS 23 (2005):
8292; or see J. Lacan, Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English New York:
W. W. Norton, 2007).
11. Per ci che riguarda levoluzione del cristianesimo vedi: K. Deschner,
Storia criminale del Cristianesimo, 9 Vol. (Milano: Ariele, 2003 e seg.).
12.F. Gosso and G. Camilla, Allucinogeni e Cristianesimo. Evidenze
nellarte sacra (Paderno Dugnano [MI]: Colibr, 2007. See also Carl A. P.
Ruck and Mark Alwin Hoffman, The Effluents of Deity: Alchemy and Psy-
choactive Sacraments in Medieval and Renaissance Art (Durham, NC: Carolina
Academic Press, 2012).
13.G. Filoramo, Il problema delle pietre sacre: alcuni itinerari sim
bolici, Benaco 85, in La cultura figurativa rupestre dalla protostoria ai nostri
giorni (Torino: Antropologia Alpina, 1986), 2536.
14. R. Gremmo, Le grandi pietre magiche (Biella: ELF, 1995).
15. A. M. Mercuri, C. A. Accorsi, and M. Bandini, The Long History
of Cannabis and Its Cultivation by the Romans in Central Italy, Shown by
Polle: Records from Lago Albano and Lago di Nemi, Vegetation History and
Archaeobotany 11, no. 4 (2002): 26376.
16. P. M. Furlan and R. L. Picci, Alcol, alcolici, alcolismo (Torino: Bol
lati Boringhieri, 1990).
17. E. Bourguignon, Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social
Change (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1973).
18. G. Lapassade, Dallo sciamano al raver (Milano: Urra/Apogeo, 1997),
19. Prefazione,Hanno visto migliaia di Dei..., op.cit.
20. P. Webster, Thomas Kuhn e la rivoluzione psichedelica, Altrove
13 (2007):12337.
21. Prefazione,Hanno visto migliaia di Dei... op.cit.

Chapter 4. Origins of Psychedelia

1. M. J. Balick and P. A. Cox, Plants, People, and CultureThe Sci-

ence of Ethnobotany (New York: Scientific American Library, 1996), 15657.
2.Donald E. Brown, Human Universals (Philadelphia: Temple Uni
versity Press, 1991), 6.
3.G. Samorini, Animals and PsychedelicsThe Natural World and the
Instinct to Alter Consciousness (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2002), from
the foreword by Rob Montgomery. Originally published in Italian under the
title Animali che si drogano, by Telesterion, Vicenza.
122 / Notes to chapter 4

4.Richard W. Byrne and Andrew Whiten, Machiavellian Intelligence

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
5. T. Wynn, Tools and the Evolution of Human Intelligence, ibid.,
6. A. Jolly, The Evolution of Purpose ibid., 37374.
7.See for example the paper by Daniel C. Dennett, The Inten
tional Stance in Theory and Practice for an appreciation of the levels of
intentionality necessary and implicit in social interaction, ibid., 180202.
8.T. McKenna, Food of the Gods (New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
9. Manuscript in preparation.
10.Ibid. A habit routine in my analysis could be initially defined
as a nested set of habitualbutvariable responses to a situation, physiological
in some instances, as when an approaching tennis ball activates a largely
automatic, prelearned and practised yet variable set of physical actions in a
return of volley. More importantly here are the habit routines concerning
the thinking processes that are used to arrive at an evaluation and conclu
sion about a situation. Established ideas, conditioned attitudes, prejudices,
etc., predominate and shape how we routinely and normally arrive at our
view of a situation, and it requires a far more active, creative, intentional,
and analytical effort on our part to come to a view that may be at odds with
our habitual ways. Howard Margolis, a student of Thomas Kuhn, has writ
ten two admirable books concerning habits of mind and how they govern
perception, judgment, and even scientific beliefs. See Patterns, Thinking and
Cognition (1987) and Paradigms and Barriers, How Habits of Mind Govern
Scientific Beliefs (1993), both University of Chicago Press.
11.Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1998).
12. See Hameroff, Kaszniak, and Scott, eds., Toward a Science of Con-
sciousness (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 687.
13.R. Byrne, The Thinking Ape (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1995), 178.
14. Ibid., 142.
15.Katherine Milton, Foraging Behavior and the Evolution of Pri
mate Intelligence, in Machiavellian Intelligence, 285305.
16. Wasson, Hofmann, and Ruck, The Road to Eleusis, Thirtieth Anni
versary Edition (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2008).
17. See for example C. Stringer and R. McKie, African Exodus (Lon
don: Jonathan Cape, 1996), 9293.
18.J. Kingdon, SelfMade Man (New York: John Wiley and Sons,
1993), 97.
19.S. Pinker, Facts about Human Language Relevant to Its Evolu
tion, in Origins of the Human Brain, ed. JP. Changeux and J. Chavaillon,
Fyssen Foundation Symposium (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), ch17.
Notes to chapter 4 / 123

20. Ibid., 271.

21. T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: The Uni
versity of Chicago Press, 1962, 1970).
22.The Multiregional Hypothesis posits that an early migration by
Homo erectus from the African heartland to the Near East, Europe, Asia,
Australia was followed by a long period of regional and parallel develop
ment, with some intermixing between regions, to produce Homo sapiens
quasiindependently in the various regions. Under this scenario, racial dif
ferences, long thought to be far more significant than has recently been
shown to be the case by genetic analysis, were supposedly evolved during
this at least millionyear period.
23.The first OutofAfrica migration being that of H. erectus 1.5 to
2 Ma.
24. Stringer and McKie, African Exodus, from the Preface.
25.Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution in Origins of the
Human Brain, 128.
26. African Exodus, 150.
28.R. Lewin, The Origin of Modern Humans (New York: Scientific
American Library, 1993), 99.
29. See for example S. Wells, The Journey of Man (Princeton: Princ
eton University Press, 2002); and R. Klein, The Human Career (Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press, 1989).
30. African Exodus, 56.
31.Ibid., 134.
32.See The Origin of Modern Humans, 99.
33. Chill Warnings from Greenland, New Scientist, August 28, 1993,
34.Sneezing While the Earth Warms, New Scientist, August 24,
1996, 5.
35. African Exodus, 5.
36.See African Exodus, various index entries under Qafzeh, Israel.
37.See the chart in C. Stringer and C. Gamble, In Search of the
Neanderthals (London: Thames and Hudson, 1993), 198.
38. Quoted in Lewin, The Origin of Modern Humans, 128.
39. African Exodus, 18687.
40. Ibid., 153. Stringer and McKie give the reference for the eruption
as M. Rampino and S. Self, ClimateVolcanism Feedback and the Toba
Eruption of ca. 74,000 Years Ago, Quatenary Research 40 (1993): 26980.

Amanita muscaria evolution, human

and cup-marks, 5355, 6364 and climate change, 102106
first use, 24, 28 and external memory, 6869
mycorrhizic relationship, 25, 28 Gebsers research on
psychological effects, 34, 64 consciousness, 1819
and sacred stones, 5560 and language, see language and
in Scandinavia, 5253 evolution
and Siberian shamanism, 1, 8, and Machiavellian Intelligence
4851 theory, 8890
and Valle des Merveilles, 53 and molecular genetics, 95101
Anadenanthera peregrina, 7, 29 and Mount Toba, 110
ayahuasca, 42, 46 and myth, 7475
and psychoactives, 4, 12, 14, 83,
Basic Perinatal Matrices, 31, 71 8687, 90, 100109
brain, human, evolution of, 22, 68, social, models of Lewis H.
8795, 101 Morgan, 3638
and tool making, 8788
atal Hyk, 4, 38, 96
climate change, in human foundation myth, 7375
evolution, 8990, 102105,
Grof, Stanislav, 18, 3034, 7072
Colorado Plateau, 42 human universals, 8386
cult of the Goddess, 3840
cup marks, 7, 5355, 6166 Kuhn, Thomas, 7980

Devereux, Paul, 5 language and evolution, 19, 38, 87,

9495, 101
Eleusis, 4, 16, 42, 76 Les Trois Frres, 8, 3334
Eliade, Mircea, 1, 2, 12, 35 Lewis-Williams, David and Thomas
entoptic phenomena, 5, 1923, 26, Dowson, 20, 2223, 2526, 41,
30, 35 44, 49, 72

126 / INDEX

Lophophora williamsii, see peyote and entoptic phenomena, 2026

functions of, 68
gtMachiavellian Intelligence global dimensions, 7
hypothesis, 8895 and phosphenes, 20
matrilineal predominance, 3739 and psychoactives, 4147
McKenna, Terence, 34, 40, 48, 89, and psychology, 33, 6769
91, 93, 96 and shamanism, 15
mescal bean, 7, 27, 43 spirals in, 59
Morgan, Lewis H., 3637
mushroom stones, 9, 46, 64 Samorini, Giorgio, 9, 4748, 86
Seminole Canyon, Texas, 8, 43
Non-Ordinary States of shamanic hypothesis, 2324, 26, 41
Consciousness (NOSCs) shamanism
and A. muscaria, 56 and music, 23, 36
chemicals, catalysts and and non-ordinary states of
techniques that produce, 56, consciousness, 1
19, 2829 and psychoactive substances, 3,
ignorance by scholars, 12 26, 4146
interest in according to and the shaman, 19
sociocultural group, 78 of Siberia, northern, 1, 3435, 52
and mental imagery, 2122 techniques, 3
and opiates, 60 and the therianthrope, 33
seeking of, as human universal, snuff, 29, 4446
8586 Sophora secundiflora, 7, 8, 27
and suspension of shared reality, 17 statue-stelae, 5659
Stringer, Chris, 9698, 100101,
opium poppy, 60
108, 110
Pegtymel, 8, 4850
peyote, 8, 21, 2728, 4344 Tassili, 89, 33, 4748, 50, 96
phosphenes, 5, 2021, 23, 24 therianthropy, 8, 33
Psilocybe, 9, 14, 28, 42, 52, 60, 61, tool making
110111 in evolution, 8789
psychoactive substances transpersonal experience, 3031
effect of in prehistory and Trichocereus pachanoi, 7, 29, 45
evolution 4, 8, 19, 8990 trigger event
and rock art 41 in human evolution, 101102,
as sacrament 1617 108, 111
and evolution, 75 Ungnadia speciosa, 7, 8, 27
and rock art, 33, 67 Uroboros, 18

rock art visionary lite, 1516, 77

and A. muscaria, 5253
cup marks phenomenon, 6166 X-ray drawing, 52, 60, 70