Ancient Hair Samples Reveal Evidence of Hallucinogenic Drug Use in Europe 3,000 Years Ago
In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists have found evidence that people in Spain were using hallucinogenic drugs over 3,000 years ago. According to new research, hair samples from a burial site in Menorca revealed that ancient civilizations in Europe were using drugs derived from plants and bushes. This marks the continent’s oldest direct evidence of humans taking hallucinogenic substances. The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that the substances, which had the potential to be quite strong, were likely used as part of rituals held at the Es Càrritx cave. The cave houses over 200 human graves and is believed to have served as a ritual and funerary site for around 600 years, until 800 BCE.
The findings indicate that the substances were used to induce delirium and hallucinations, and may have been used by shamans who could control the side effects of the plant drugs. The hair samples revealed three psychoactive substances, including atropine and scopolamine, which induce hallucinations, and ephedrine, which boosts energy and alertness. Containers found in the cave with spiral motifs carved on the lids may also indicate a person’s “altered states of consciousness” while under the influence of hallucinogens. This discovery challenges previous assumptions about prehistoric drug use in Europe, which were based on indirect evidence such as the appearance of drug plants in artistic depictions.