Ancient Humans Used Hallucinogenic Drugs, Analysis Of 3,000-Year-Old Hair Strands Reveals

Historic people from the Bronze Age used hallucinogenic medication derived from crops, an evaluation of 3000-year-old hair strands from a burial website in Menorca, Spain has revealed. The examine describing the findings was just lately printed within the Scientific Studies. Hallucinogenic medication might have been utilized in historical Europe as a part of ritualistic ceremonies. 

The examine marks the primary direct proof of historical drug use in Europe.

Beforehand, proof of prehistoric drug use in Europe was discovered, nevertheless it was primarily based on oblique proof such because the detection of opium alkaloids in Bronze Age containers, the looks of drug crops in creative depictions, and the discovering of stays of drug crops in ritualistic contexts. 

It’s exceedingly uncommon to search out human hair dated to late prehistory within the western Mediterranean. 

Mysteries from the cult cave of Es Càrritx

Archaeological excavations carried out within the Bronze Age burial and cult cave of Es Càrritx in Menorca, or Balearic Islands, by a crew of researchers led by Elisa Guerra-Doce, a professor of prehistory on the College of Valladolid, Spain, have unravelled some mysteries.

The human hair strands found had been concerned in a single funerary ceremony. In response to the examine authors, the discovering supplied the chance to discover the attainable use of drug crops by Late Bronze Age folks. 

The Es Càrritx collapse Menorca was first occupied round 3,600 years in the past, and contained a chamber used as a funeral area till round 2,800 years in the past. Round 210 people had been interred on this chamber, in response to earlier analysis. The examine authors discovered that strands of hair from solely sure people had been dyed pink, positioned in picket and horn containers embellished with concentric circles, and eliminated to a separate sealed chamber additional again within the cave. 


The human hair strands found had been concerned in a single funerary ceremony. (College of Valladolid)

Throughout a lot of the Bronze Age, the Es Càrritx cave, often known as the Cova des Càrritx, was used as a ritual and funerary area. Room 5, one of the distant rooms within the cave, was found in 1995. The room is an enigmatic deposit made up of assorted picket and horn containers filled with locks of hair, a press release launched by the College of Valladolid mentioned. 


The Es Càrritx cave in Menorca, or Cova des Càrritx was first occupied around 3,600 years ago, and contained a chamber used as a funeral space until around 2,800 years ago. Around 210 individuals were interred in this chamber, according to previous research. (Photo: University of Valladolid)
The Es Càrritx collapse Menorca, or Cova des Càrritx was first occupied round 3,600 years in the past, and contained a chamber used as a funeral area till round 2,800 years in the past. Round 210 people had been interred on this chamber, in response to earlier analysis. (Picture: College of Valladolid)

The hair strands got here from a few of the corpses buried in one other room, known as Room 1. The hair strands had been combed throughout ritualistic ceremonies earlier than being minimize. The strands of hair had been minimize into locks with lengths as much as 13 centimetres, forensic examination has revealed. 

What medication did historical people devour?

The authors carried out chemical analyses of a pattern of human hair strands, and detected the alkaloids ephedrine, atropine, and scopolamine. 

Each atropine and scopolamine are naturally discovered within the nightshade plant household, and may induce delirium, hallucinations and altered sensory notion, whereas ephedrine is a stimulant derived from sure species of shrubs and pines, and may improve pleasure, alertness and bodily exercise.

In response to the examine, these alkaloids might have been current within the hair strands as a result of consumption of some nightshade crops, similar to mandrake or Mandragora autumnalis, henbane or Hyoscyamus albus, and thorn apple or Datura stramonium. People from the Bronze Age had been additionally prone to have consumed joint pine or Ephedra fragilis. 

Medication had been consumed by shamans earlier than loss of life

The findings point out that the medication had been consumed earlier than loss of life, and will have been reserved for a small group of individuals, who performed a job much like that of shamans. Shamans are people able to mediating between a neighborhood and the supernatural world.

What was particular concerning the burial chamber

The authors instructed that the burial chamber known as Room 1 was used to make sure that the folks buried there might talk instantly with the supernatural world. Historic people started utilizing Room 1 as a cemetery round 1450 BC. 

Greater than 200 folks had been buried there over a interval of 600 years, anthropological evaluation of the skeletal stays has revealed. In response to the College of Valladolid, no people under three months of age, or pregnant ladies had been buried within the room. 

What different artefacts had been found?


Artefacts discovered in Cova des Càrritx (Photo: University of Valladolid)
Artefacts found in Cova des Càrritx (Picture: College of Valladolid)

The authors additionally found glasses, spatulas, spoons and a comb in a gap contained in the cave. All these objects had been manufactured from wooden. Different artefacts discovered embrace two ceramic pots, a bronze blade, cylindrical containers, and varied bone objects.

Why had been the picket containers embellished with circles?

The picket containers had been embellished with concentric circles most likely to depict eyes and as a metaphor for interior imaginative and prescient related to an altered state of consciousness induced by medication. 

Round 2,800 years in the past, there have been cultural modifications, and to protect the traditional traditions, historical people in Spain might have sealed the picket containers within the cave chamber. 

Subsequently, the authors confirmed the usage of completely different alkaloid-bearing crops by native communities of the western Mediterranean island greater than 3,000 years in the past.

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