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.

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


New Gene Discovery May Explain Rapid Human Brain Evolution

A revealing new study on human evolution and brain development has just been published. Could this lend credence to the stoned ape theory of brain evolution?

About 300,000-800,000 years ago the human brain experienced a massive and accelerated growth spurt. Scientists have offered many explanations for how and why this may have occurred, but a new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital focused on a fast-evolving set of the human genome called human accelerated regions (HARS). Previous studies have found about 3,100 HARS during brain development, but the team at Children’s Hospital determined one HAR gene PPP1R17 could be responsible for or play a significant role in, rapid brain development. Further, they discovered this works differently in humans than in other animals.

Ben Stewart, the host of Gaia’s Limitless series, said,”[T]hese regions of the human DNA may hold some kind of an answer at the rapid explosion of human neo-cortex because if you think of it evolutionarily, there’s not been one creature, at least on planet Earth, that has been studied that had any organ increase in size as large and as rapidly as the human brain did, so there’s definitely some unanswered questions there.”

“I’m pretty sure that these HARS regions are being looked at for something very unique in the evolution of the brain, and my own personal twist on it is this also might be important when we start looking at brian-machine interfaces and how the brain can potentially cause mutations to adapt to some kind of technology in the brain to enhance or evolve the human brain,” Stewart said.

How could this new discovery be related to the Stoned Ape theory?

“There’s a possibility that the Stoned Ape theory could lead into this. Now, the Stoned Ape theory was really popularized by Terence McKenna,” Stewart said. “Over time, you would have some of our ancient ancestors, hominids, that would be following behind bovine creatures, cows, and in the cow patties in the fields that would naturally, having followed these creatures around for hundreds of thousands of years or whatever it might have been, that they would have started eating the mushrooms, the psilocybin mushrooms that grow naturally in cow patties. These experiences tickling the language centers and other parts of the brain, bringing down the rigidity of the default mode network, and activating other communication hubs within the brain, that could actually explain the rapid explosion of the human neocortex.”

“In this article, they’re saying that these human accelerated regions act differently in humans than they do in primates or creatures like mice and ferrets that they’ve looked into now. So, potentially if there is some connection with the Stoned Ape theory, that psychedelics or psychotropics helped in the expansion of the human neocortex, and made us as, at least psychologically, so much different than the rest of the creatures on Earth, then there may be something to look at here.”

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