Hallucinogenic Plants May Be Key to Decoding Ancient Southwestern Paintings, Expert Says

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Dozens of rock art sites in southern New Mexico, recently documented for the first time, are revealing unexpected botanical clues that archaeologists say may help unlock the meaning of the ancient abstract paintings.

“Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range.”

Over a swath of the Chihuahuan Desert stretching from Carlsbad to Las Cruces, at least 24 rock art panels have been found bearing the same distinctive pictographs: repeated series of triangles painted in combinations of red, yellow, and black.

A rock art panel found at Dripping Springs, New Mexico depicts abstract triangle motifs. At this panel and others like it, potent wild tobacco was found growing beneath the image. Photograph enhanced with DStretch. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

A rock art panel found at Dripping Springs, New Mexico depicts abstract triangle motifs. At this panel and others like it, potent wild tobacco was found growing beneath the image. Photograph enhanced with DStretch. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

And at each of these sites, archaeologists have noticed similarities not just on the rock, but in the ground.61A-gXHiStL._SL250_

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Hallucinogenic plants were found growing beneath the triangle designs, including a particularly potent species of wild tobacco and the potentially deadly psychedelic known as datura.

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Researchers believe that the plants may be a kind of living artifact, left there nearly a thousand years ago by shamans who  smoked the leaves of the plants in preparation for their painting.

“I think there’s a real good chance that they’re using tobacco in large enough amounts that they’re going into altered states of consciousness.”

“I think almost certainly that they’re trancing on this stuff,” said Dr. Lawrence Loendorf, president of the archaeological firm Sacred Sites Research, of the ancient artisans.

Wild tobacco found growing beneath rock art at Dripping Springs, with triangle motifs visible at right. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

Wild tobacco found growing beneath rock art at Dripping Springs, with triangle motifs visible at right. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

“I think there’s a real good chance that they’re using tobacco in large enough amounts that they’re going into altered states of consciousness, and I think that’s how [the hallucinogenic plants] are getting there.

“[They’re] getting to those sites because they were used for special ceremonial purposes.”

Wild tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum)

Wild tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum)

The region that Loendorf and his colleagues have been exploring was once home to the Jornada Mogollon, a culture of foraging farmers similar to the early Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied the territory from about the 5th to the 15th centuries. Read the rest of this entry »


Science: Inside the minds of the JFK conspiracy theorists

Driving into a conspiracy? (Image: REX/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Driving into a conspiracy? (Image: REX/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Will Saletan writes:  To believe that the US government planned or deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks, you’d have to posit that President Bush intentionally sacrificed 3,000 Americans. To believe that explosives, not planes, brought down the buildings, you’d have to imagine an operation large enough to plant the devices without anyone getting caught.

[More punditfromanotherplanet coverage on JFK]

To insist that the truth remains hidden, you’d have to assume that everyone who has reviewed the attacks and the events leading up to them – the CIA, the Justice Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, scientific organisations, peer-reviewed journals, news organisations, the airlines, and local law enforcement agencies in three states – was incompetent, deceived or part of the cover-up.

And yet, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl points out, millions of Americans hold these beliefs. In a Zogby poll taken six years ago, only 64 per cent of US adults agreed that the attacks “caught US intelligence and military forces off guard”. More than 30 per cent chose a different conclusion: that “certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives”, or that these government elements “actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks”.

How can this be? How can so many people, in the name of scepticism, promote so many absurdities?

The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really sceptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favour a world view, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.

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Fire-Eaters: The Search for the Hottest Chili

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Lauren Collins writes:  In mid-December of 2011, Brady Bennett went out drinking at Adobe Gila’s at the Greene, a Mexican restaurant in Dayton, Ohio. After two beers, the bartender offered him a free shot. Bennett chose Patrón tequila with apple schnapps. Soon, he recalled, his throat began to swell. He struggled to breathe, and his nose, mouth, and lungs “felt as though they were on fire.” He called for an ambulance, moaning, and was taken to the hospital. A year later, Bennett filed a lawsuit against Adobe Gila’s, claiming that the bartender had spiked his drink with extract of the bhut jolokia, or ghost chili. (Adobe Gila’s denies the allegations.) “It wasn’t as if they gave him a little Tabasco,” Jeff McQuiston, Bennett’s lawyer, told the DaytonDaily News. “This stuff is lethal.” The bhut jolokia is a hundred and fifty times hotter than a jalapeño. Gastromasochists have likened it to molten lava, burning needles, and “the tip of my tongue being branded by a fine point of heated steel.” Yet, at more than a million Scoville heat units—the Scoville scale, developed by the pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, measures the pungency of foods—the bhut jolokia is at least 462,400 SHU short of being the world’s hottest chili pepper.

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