Ancient Civilizations Had Drug-Fueled Cave Raves, Study Says

April 10, 2023
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© iurii / Shutterstock

People’s love for the mighty rave wasn’t born yesterday. According to new research, our Bronze Age ancestors used hallucinogenic drugs 3,000 years ago during rave-like cave ceremonies. 

Analysis of human hair from a burial site in Menorca, Spain, indicates that ancient civilizations consumed vision-inducing substances from plants. 

The Spanish research team said scopolamine, ephedrine and atropine were used during Bronze Age ceremonies. Given where the hair was stashed, the archaeologists believe the hallucinogenics were consumed during cave rituals overseen by a shaman. 

Atropine and scopolamine come from the nightshade plant family and can induce delirium and hallucinations. 

Sourced from certain species of shrubs, ephedrine is a central nervous system stimulant that boosts alertness and energy levels.

The findings are the first evidence of ancient drug use in Europe. Prior to this analysis, evidence of prehistoric drug use on the continent was based on indirect evidence, such as herbal drug residues and detection of opium in containers. 

In the Scientific Reports journal, the authors said: “as early as the Paleolithic period, humans came across the non-food properties of plants.”

“Interestingly, the psychoactive substances detected in this study are not suitable for alleviating the pain involved in severe palaeopathological conditions attested in the population buried in the cave of Es Carritx, such as periapical abscesses, severe caries and arthropathies.”


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