Stone Age man took drugs, say scientists
Scientists have discovered evidence suggesting Stone Age man used herbal mixtures to get high.
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Published on 20 Oct 2008
It has long been suspected that humans have an ancient history of drug use, but there has been a lack of proof to support the theory.
Now, however, researchers have found equipment used to prepare hallucinogenic drugs for sniffing, and dated them back to prehistoric South American tribes.
Quetta Kaye, of University College London, and Scott Fitzpatrick, an archeologist from North Carolina State University, made the breakthrough on the Caribbean island of Carriacou.
They found ceramic bowls, as well as tubes for inhaling drug fumes or powders, which appear to have originated in South America between 100BC and 400BC and were then carried 400 miles to the islands.
While the use of such paraphernalia for inhaling drugs is well-known, the age of the bowls has thrown new light on how long humans have been taking drugs.
Scientists believe that the drug being used was cohoba, a hallucinogen made from the beans of a mimosa species. Drugs such as cannabis were not found in the Caribbean then.
Opiates can be obtained from species such as poppies, while fungi, which was widespread, may also have been used.
Archeologists have suggested that humans were extracting mind-expanding drugs from mescal beans and peyote cacti as far back as 5,000 years ago, but have not found direct evidence that this is true.
They consider that drugs were being used to induce spiritual or trance-like states by people who had religious beliefs.
Archaeologists from North Carolina unearthed evidence that supports the belief that humankind has pursued altered states long before the modern era. Writer Jonathan Wune-Jones reported in the UK telegraph that researchers from the University College of London and North Carolina State University found artifacts of drug paraphernalia that were used for inhaling drugs over 2100 years ago.