Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News



Rock Art Linked to Hallucinogenic Plants

21 Oct 2014
Bradshaw Foundation

An article on by Blake de Pastino - Hallucinogenic Plants May Be Key to Decoding Ancient Southwestern Paintings - reports on work being carried out in the United States on several rock art sites in southern New Mexico. Botanical clues are providing archaeologists with possible explanations for the abstract motifs found in the pictographs, or cave paintings.

Hallucinogenic Plants may be the key to decoding ancient Southwestern rock art

Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which straddles the United States-Mexico border in the central and northern portions of the Mexican Plateau, over 20 rock art panels have been found bearing the same distinctive symbols: repeated series of triangles painted in combinations of red, yellow, and black.

Several rock art sites in southern New Mexico have botanical clues

At each of these sites, archaeologists have noticed similarities between the rock art itself as well as the flora. 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.

Dr. Lawrence Loendorf, president of the archaeological firm Sacred Sites Research, believes that the plants may be a kind of living artifact, left there intentionally or unintentionally, for millenia by the artists, who consumed the plants for altered states of consciousness in association with the rock art painting. This may have been a shamanic process with ceremonial purposes.

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. This culture, it is argued, created the pictographs, as well as crafting cedorated pottery known today as El Paso phase ceramics.

The rock art sites being studied in this region all featured the triangle motifs and sherds of Jornadan pottery. The pottery has been radiocarbon dated to around 1000 CE.

Editor's note: 
The scientific literature has a host of images drawn by people during or directly after they were experiencing hallucinations induced by drugs, or direct electrical stimulation of the visual cortex of the brain. One can argue that there is a clear commonality between hallucinations and prehistoric geometric motifs, such as the kerbstones at Brú na Bóinne.

The universal geometric motifs emerge from activity in what is known as the primary visual cortex of our brains. This is the very first stage of processing, where the information captured by our eyes enters the cortex of our brains. The geometric forms can be perceived directly during hallucinations, and this supports the hypotheses by Heinrich Klüver, David Lewis-Williams and Jeremy Dronfield, that rock paintings by shamanistic artists are simply an accurate record of the artists' visions: the artists could have been drawing what they were seeing, in a very literal sense. It is possible that these geometric motifs are infact 'natural motifs' for our brains. We are now in the realm of 'geometric neuro-aesthetics'.

It is possible that the geometric motifs appear in the art of hallucinators as well as non-hallucinators; for the latter because these forms are 'natural motifs' for our brains. The geometric motifs that occur most frequently in works of art that we consider pleasing may be the ones that activate the natural baseline activity modes of the visual cortex: they may be more effective at stimulating a large-scale pattern of activity in the visual cortex, and more aesthetically pleasing than motifs which do not correspond to the intrinsic patterns of activity.

Have a look at our section on Ancient Symbols in Rock Art by Professor John Miller of Montana State University, Bozeman:

Visit the American Rock Art Archive:

Images: Lawrence Loendorf



13 Oct 2014
14 Oct 2014
10 Oct 2014
10 Sep 2014
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Coso Range Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Portable Art Research Paper Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes List of Research Papers Other Websites Contact the Foundation