Mind-Altering Rock Art
Drawings on the walls of rock shelters along the Pecos River, near the Texas-Mexico border, depict scenes containing human figures, animals, and various shapes and symbols of uncertain meaning. These images portray ancient shamans performing rituals that were intended to forge connections to the spirit world, according to a number of researchers.
A new analysis of plant remains at Pecos River sites, informed by ethnographic accounts of Indian groups in that region, now imbues this ancient art gallery with a hallucinogenic glow. In many of the scenes, the shamans are surrounded by jimson weed and peyote, consciousness-altering substances that have been found in Pecos River rock shelters dating to at least 4,000 years ago, assert Carolyn E. Boyd and J. Philip Dering, both of Texas A&M University in College Station.
"We have evidence in the archaeological sediments and in the art indicating great antiquity for the use of two powerful psychoactive plants [by shamans]," Boyd and Dering conclude in the June Antiquity. …