Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Scientists Think Cavemen Painted While High On Hallucinogenic Drugs

There's something undeniably surreal about early cave paintings, something otherworldly or even psychedelic. And according to a team of international scientists, that's because the cave painters were doing mind-bending drugs while painting them.
Researchers Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward and Takashi Ikegami from Tokyo recentlypublished a comprehensive study of over 40,000 years worth of cave paintings and found some pretty telling patterns. The spiral-like and labyrinthian designs that pop up in paintings from locations that are thousands of miles away from each other didn't just pop up by coincidence. Since these patterns are consistent with those that many humans see after taking hallucinogenic drugs, the scientists think that ancient cavemen had more in common than previously thought. They all loved to get high.
Specifically known as "Turing instabilities," these hallucinations are common after ingesting a number of different plants with psychoactive properties. The patterns resemble "neural patterns" that mimic the structural makeup of the brain and are as meaningful as those that initially experienced them perceived them to be. "'When these visual patterns are seen during altered states of consciousness they are directly experienced as highly charged with significance," the researchers suggest. "In other words, the patterns are directly perceived as somehow meaningful and thereby offer themselves as salient motifs for use in rituals."
Scientists Think Cavemen Painted While High on Hallucinogenic Drugs
This isn't the first time we've heard that hallucinogenic drugs may have played a role in early cave paintings—though it's the most scientifically rigorous evidence yet. A couple of years ago, a 6,000-year-old cave painting in Spain ignited a small buzz after scientist identified what appeared to be images of psychedelic mushrooms in one of the murals. This finding was consistent with earlier hypotheses drawn from similar paintings that suggested cavemen knew about the special powers some plants possessed and possibly used those plants to inspire some of the earliest works of art known to man.
But again, the scientific rigor of this latest study is what's crucial here. Not only did they connect known patterns from ancient cave paintings to modern day research on hallucinations, but they also mapped the projected hallucinations to particular regions of the brain that would've been active after taking such drugs. The study bases much of its findings on the founding notions of neurophenomenology, which is the study of the relationship between brain functioning and human experience. While we can't exactly do a brain scan of what's inside these 10,000 year old men's heads, we can find a common link between the images that came out of those heads 10,000 years ago and images that we still see in art produced by men under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. Those paintings teach us a lot about mankind through the ages. They teach us not only that we've always loved art, but that we've always loved drugs, too. [Adaptive Behavior via Daily Mail]
Image via Flickr / bibliojojo

Originally posted on: Gizmodo


  1. While I'm sure a few cavemen were doing hallucinogenics - I find it hard to believe that ALL cultures around the world were ALL doing drugs while painting. Seems a little far fetched, dontcha think??? but science will do anything to squash the belief that aliens exist


    1. I don't think this idea opposes the belief that aliens exist. Theory: 1 Our ancestors were Martians. 2 outside Alien species comes to mars. 3 they drug and send our ancestors to earth. 4 they steal our resources on mars and leave it desolate. 5 we forget/have no proof. 6 history repeats itself. 7 aliens are killing us with food and will drug survivors and send them to another planet to radio our resources. /theory. Could be wrong though.

    2. Reap* not radio

    3. not far fetched at all. physiologically human beings seem to be attracted to mind altering foods. if every human being had drawn a cave painting then ascribing that to drugs would be a stretch. but since there are few considering the number of humans that have lived, and having had tryptamines myself, it makes complete sense for the few that did have the drugs would want to communicate or express the experience.

      look at the artists over the years and the art they made. most of them were high as a kite. if 10,000 years from now somebody found our art and said "these people were most definately high" it wouldnt be much of a stretch at all. aliens however, though i dont doubt they exist, would at least be more of a stretch than drugs. humanity, believe it or not, is largely human in origin.

  2. ex. hallucinogenic mushrooms are not of earth. they have been proven to have arrived here on fallen meteors. further study shows that the mushroom's makeup closely resembles that of the human nervous system. so essentially, they are little brains... there's always a connect to aliens because that's the truth.

  3. Plus all ancient civilizations had their medicine men. Shamans. their "medi-care" was diet and... well special plants. These mind altering substances could be considered what breaks down the filter that blocks our experience of deeper reality and even other races of beings. it's not "explaining away" it's a connection.

  4. the experience itself alters perceptions, and perceptions are established to fit into the norm of the culture...over time. altering that normal day-to-day method of understanding the world around them in itself will follow patterns, discerning underlying patterns, etc, due to the organic structure of the brain itself.
    so it would stand to reason that the alterations would follow similar patterns over extended timelines of human development.
    western culture has shown a repeated tendency to ignore findings in these areas, in in the overall a "shrinking" from new, "unauthorized" findings. we are becoming a highly controllable species.

  5. hahahaha aliens huh. mushrooms are PROVEN to come from space. good god people have you ever tripped?

    whats more likely? that ALIENS or that people like to get high? aliens? speculative, no definitive proof exists. people like to get high? PROVEN already just look out your window.

    the likelihood it was aliens vs. the likelihood people were getting high... i dont see a reason to argue this point.