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Stoned Aged Artists
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Stoned Age artists may have been on a trip

By Martin Wainwright
Saturday May 15, 1999

A whole new meaning has been given to the term Stone Age by archaeologists who have discovered an unexpected  inspiration for prehistoric cave art.

internal linkHemp seeds and spores of 'magic   internal linkmushrooms' found in excavations suggest that the hazy and often upside-down bison and stickmen of primitive artists may have been painted in the course of drugs trips.

'It is too early to talk about proof, but there are striking similarities with modern internal linkhallucinogenic art,' said David Cowland, who delivers a lecture at Bradford university next week on cannabis finds at prehistoric sites. 'Cave paintings have a formlessness and unexpected mixing, for instance of mammoths and vivid red dots, and the artists clearly had no shortage of
appropriate fungi and plants.'

Research centres on wall-paintings in caves in France and Spain dating back to16,000BC where ritual, often associated with drug use, is thought to have played an important part. Mr Cowland, a  postgraduate at Bradford's archaeology department, said: 'We know that internal linkshamans, credited with internal linkmagic powers, were important in primitive societies, and the use of magic mushrooms tallies with that.'

Moulds, including the powerfully hallucinogenic ergot found on rotting vegetation, were common in caves, and deliberate use also appears to have been made of the toadstool, amanita muscaria,  or internal linkfly agaric.

The Greek historian, Herodotus, recorded travellers' descriptions of cannabis rituals dating back to much earlier times among Scythian tribespeople on the border between Siberia and Mongolia.

'They take some hemp seed, creep into a small tent and throw the seed on to hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much that they howl with pleasure.'

Mr Cowland said that recent finds at Pazyryk in the Altai mountains confirmed the account. Digs had located burnt hemp seeds and a primitive censer.

Richard Morris, director of the British Council for Archaeology, said that references to cannabis, opium and other drug finds were increasingly common in excavation reports from what, he said, 'should perhaps be renamed the Stoned Age'.

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