People Possibly Tripped on Shrooms Before the Late Stone Age


When we use the term magic mushrooms, what we are referring to is any kind of mushroom—or, more specifically, any species of fungi—that naturally produces the psychedelic prodrug psilocybin, the compound that causes us to “trip.” 

Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist who was born in 1906 and who died at age 102 in 2008, was the first to isolate psilocybin from the mushroom Psilocybe mexicana, one of many kinds of magic mushrooms. 

Hoffman was also the first person to synthesize lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), otherwise known as acid, and the first person to trip on acid, which he did by accident on a day in 1943 known as Bicycle Day.  

But the history of psychedelic mushrooms dates back way, way further. 

Since the Dawn of History

High school students are known to begin essays with, “Since the dawn of history.” It’s rarely a good way to begin any piece of writing, but when it comes to writing about magic mushrooms, it’s appropriate. 

In Spain and Algeria, there are ancient rock paintings and murals that portray the usage of magic mushrooms that predate recorded history, dating back about 6,000 years. 

Aztec and Mayan cultures may have also used the naturally occurring psychoactive substance in religious rituals and practices. The Aztecs called magic mushrooms “God’s flesh.” 

After the Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire in the early 16th century, Spanish authorities banned Aztec rituals involving magic mushrooms, deeming them “pagan idolatry,” so the Aztecs began using mushrooms in secret. 

Since Before the Dawn of History

But the human usage of magic mushrooms dates back, way back, even further. 

About 20-30 species of fungi that produce psilocybin can be found in Australia. Some of them are likely native. According to a 1985 article published in Australian Museum Trust, Indigenous people may have consumed magic mushrooms up to 60,000 years ago. That predates the Late Stone Age by 10,000 years. 

These Indigenous people did not consume chocolate bars with magic mushrooms in them, as people do now, but it is possible they did trip. 

Archeologists have found murals in Australia depicting magic mushrooms and psychedelic experiences that date back to 10,000 BCE. 

Did Magic Mushrooms Expedite Human Evolution? 

It sounds outlandish, and it quite possibly is, but Terence McKenna (1946-2000), an American ethnobotanist and mystic, believed that magic mushrooms may have sped up human evolution. 

He believed that magic mushrooms did this by creating new kinds of hyperconnectivity among different brain networks which, in turn, doubled the size of human brains, thereby sparking historically monumental ideas such as language and religion, and enabling the creation of new technologies. 

Magic Mushrooms from 1950 until Now 

After Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD in the mid-20th century, scientists became fascinated by psychedelics and their therapeutic potential. Numerous studies were done that showed that taking psychedelics under the right set and setting could help people with depression, anxiety, and addiction. 

Also, the recreational use of psychedelics began to play a major role in counter-cultural movements. Celebrities like The Beatles, all of whom took psychedelics, promoted them.

Around 1970-1980, however, things began to change. Usage of psychedelics became stigmatized, and funding for research on psychedelics significantly decreased. 

Only recently has a scientific interest in psychedelics experienced a resurgence. It’s quite possible that in only a few years psychedelic therapies may become a new norm. 

In other words, the near future may look a lot like the ancient past. 

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