Paleolithic Cave Painters Used Drugs To Hallucinate, Inspire

Llowell Williams

Cave painters may have been on drugs, hallucinating while they created the oldest pieces of human art. This is the thesis put forward by an international cooperative of scientists.

Scrawling images ranging from abstract renderings of animals to even more unusual geometric shapes and patterns, this new thesis says pre-agricultural cave wall artists were high on psychedelic drugs.

Seeking and eating plants known to produce this intoxicated state, aspiring artists would then take to rock walls, sources at msnNOW report.

Traditionally, it has been a commonly held belief that art arose as a way to reflect and recreate the world around us. This new thesis contests this notion and addresses a curious mystery that has stumped archaeologists for decades, reports AlterNet.

While many might recall paintings that represent animals like horses and such, actually a great deal of pre-historic rock wall art involves geometric imagery.

What is so mysterious about that? Archaeologists, documenting the earliest human painted artworks from Europe to Asia to Africa, have noticed a striking similarity between the works. Groups of people who likely never encountered each other for hundreds if not thousands of years were creating distinctly similar shapes and patterns.

The new thesis says this is because most early cave painters used drugs of a psychedelic, hallucinatory nature. While "tripping," these pre-agricultural humans would tend to see similar geometric patterns --- then paint them.

Humans see similar patterns while hallucinating because researchers believe it may be a visual representation of neural patterns, in a very limited way.

Some prior theories had suggested that pre-historic rock wall artists were unwittingly intoxicated by noxious gases leaking into the caves. This new thesis says that instead, the drugging was quite intentional.

In fact, the scientists behind the new paper believe that a ritual was involved where cave painters consumed the psychedelic drugs, getting into an intoxicated frenzy that would inspire the paintings.

So it turns out that the cliché of an artist doing drugs to find inspiration may not be such a new notion after all. Turns out the earliest human artists may have been cave painters on drugs that inspired them to create some of the oldest examples of homosapien creativity.

[Image via ShutterStock]