Oldest Evidence of Ayahuasca Use Found in Ancient Shaman’s Stash

shaman cave

Bolivian archeologists found what appears to be the world’s oldest evidence for the use of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca, in a shaman’s stash alongside a slew of other psychoactive substances. The ancient drugs were found in a 1,000-year-old pouch made of fox snouts in a cave in Cueva del Chileno in the highlands of the Andes.

The shaman’s pouch was originally thought to be a leather shoe when it was discovered back in 2010, but upon further inspection proved to contain a bundle with a headband, llama bone utensils, and various devices meant for crushing and inhaling psychoactive powders – a toolkit of primitive paraphernalia.

1000-Year Old Ancient Drugs

In addition, the shaman’s pouch contained a pharmacopeia of psychotropic herbs and plants containing DMT, such as chacruna, harmine (an ayahuasca compound), bufotenine (a DMT analogue found in toad venom), cocaine and a cocaine metabolite, and possibly psilocyn a psychoactive component of magic mushrooms.

According to Jose Capriles, an archeologist at Penn State University and one of the authors on the discovery’s paper, the array of psychotropic herbs found in the shaman’s pouch would have had to be sourced from very disparate areas of the Amazon, meaning this DMT shaman would have travelled many miles or had access to extensive trade routes to acquire his stash.

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Shaman’s pouch made of fox snouts stitched together courtesy natgeo.com

 

The history of ayahuasca in the Amazon is believed to have been passed down over centuries –about 5,000 years— according to indigenous cultures, despite debate by western archeologists studying its history. But when it comes to western studies of ayahuasca, western academia is often stumped by the many inexplicable facets of the brew.

Such as how, out of 40 thousand plant species in the Amazon, did indigenous people know to combine specific vines and plants containing DMT and a substance that negates a very specific enzyme in the gut, to produce the most potent hallucinogen known to man. Not to mention the vast troves of medicinal combinations of those plants, which indigenous shamans and doctors say were revealed to them under the influence of ayahuasca.

In Jeremy Narby’s 1998 book The Cosmic Serpent, documenting his time spent among the indigenous Ashaninka tribe of Brazil, he concludes that the discovery of the DNA double helix strand was influenced by visions seen under the influence of ayahuasca. Narby says he believes the brew allows shamans to shrink their consciousness to the molecular level to “gain access to DNA-related information, which they call animate essences or spirits.”

Now with this recent discovery, it has become apparent that the use of these psychedelic substances was widespread and likely considered extremely valuable as tools of knowledge and spiritual sacrament. And as these substances slowly become more popular tools of healing and medicine in the western world, it seems we may be on the verge of discovering what indigenous cultures have held sacred for so many years.

 

For more on the shamanic rituals involved with ayahuasca and other psychedelics check out our series Psychedelica:

Ayahuasca: Journey to Infinity


Psychedelic Experiences Neurologically Mimic Near-Death Experiences

Near-death Experience neurally correlates to psychedelic trip

Research suggests the psychedelic trip is remarkably similar to a Near-Death Experience and has been noted for decades. Now, research into the neural activity experienced while under the influence of psychedelics, is providing valuable context for the commonalities.

Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who experienced an NDE in 2008 and has since been studying the phenomenon and sharing his findings in a number of bestselling books.

“This research with psychedelics has been so fascinating,” Alexander said. “Not only does it show that the brain goes dark under the influence of such substances, they actually showed this beautiful inverse correlation between the amount of turning off and dissolution of the Default-Mode Network, as demonstrated on fMRI, with a degree of liberation of consciousness away from the ego into these unfettered realms of transcendental and paranormal experience. It shows us in a very concrete fashion that the brain activity is not actually causing all of this to happen, but it’s more the brain getting out of the way.” 

Researcher Dr. Rick Strassman was the first to rigorously study the overlap between the psychedelic experience and the NDE. The commonalities are quite significant.

“It’s all about entering new realms, I mean, entire immersive experiences — worlds that are different from our material realm. That is a very common theme in those drug experiences as well as in near-death experiences. There’s also this extraordinary world of beings, entities, guides, of intelligences. It’s showing this incredible unification, a sense of being, and a binding force of love through these experiences. So, there’s a commonality of lesson and transformation,” Alexander said.

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