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Hallucinogens and Rock Art

Altered states of consciousness in the Palaeolithic period

By Eva Hopman

Hallucinogens and Rock Art Altered states of consciousness in the Palaeolithic period By Eva Hopman University

University of Groningen

Institute of Archaeology

Contents

Groningen 2008

I. Introduction

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II. Altered states of consciousness

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II.I Hallucination

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III.

Hallucinogens in the Palaeolithic world

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IV. Rock art in various cultures

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IV.I The San of southern Africa

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IV.2 Aboriginals of Australia

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IV.3 Meso- and South-American tribes

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IV.4 Palaeolithic period

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V.

Conclusion

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Bibliography

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List of Pictures

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For my ever-inspiring friend, Jake

Author Eva Hopman

Student 1699911 at Groningen institute of archaeology

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Groningen, 17 th December 2008

Cover: A painting in the cave of Lascaux (Ruspoli, M. Lascaux: un nouveau regard, 1986).

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I. Introduction

Many theories exist on the Palaeolithic art, and especially on cave and rock art. Who made the art, which materials were used to paint? Why was rock art made at this time? The question I will be trying to answer in this essay is the following:

Is it possible that the paintings in caves and on rock in the Palaeolithic period were inspired by the images seen in a state induced by hallucinogens?

I have come to this question by wondering what moved the Palaeolithic people in Europe to create their cave paintings. Some of the paintings don’t seem to ‘make sense’. Is it possible that the shamans, or whoever painted the art, ate a certain type of root or mushroom and saw things in an altered state of consciousness that inspired to create these things? In order to answer these questions, we will have to look at other hunter- gatherer societies that have made rock art, since no ethnographic information is left about the Palaeolithic period in Europe. It is of course tempting to link other primitive cultures to the Palaeolithic people from Europe, but it is important to be careful what to conclude. The cultures we look at live far apart and are very different in some ways; we should keep that in mind. However, considering that the biological essence of man is always the same, no matter what culture, some things can be concluded quite safely.

First, I will go into what we understand to be altered states of consciousness, and how these can be created. What can be seen in such a state? These are all things on which I need to shed some light so we can understand the different cultures. Subsequently, I will take a look at the possible hallucinogens growing in the world of the Palaeolithic people. What kind of effects would these plants or fungi have? It is also important to know, what we exactly mean by the term ‘hallucinogens’.

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I will describe the rock art from the Palaeolithic period, particularly that of Lascaux, and the rock art in a number of hunter-gatherer cultures of which we have information, and discuss the similarities and differences. The cultures discussed are the San in southern Africa, the Aboriginals of Australia and the aboriginal tribes in Meso- and South-America.

II. Altered states of consciousness

There are many different ways to come to an altered state of consciousness. The best known way is probably that with the use of hallucinogens or psychoactive drugs. However, there are also ways people are not so familiar with, such as sensory deprivation (Fig. 1), intense concentration, auditory, kinetic or visual driving, pain, schizophrenia, hyperventilation, sleep deprivation or sustained rhythmic movement, which is actually a combination of kinetic and auditory driving (Lewis-Williams, 2002). These states don’t necessarily lead to hallucinations, but all alter the human mind. What can be seen when hallucinating is described below in ‘hallucination’. A more popular term for an altered state of consciousness is trance. Ben Watson goes as far as calling dreams an altered state of consciousness (Ben Watson, 2007). He writes that dreams had a more important meaning in prehistoric times, as they still do in prehistoric tribes, and the things occurring in the dreams are often considered to have actually happened. While this is true for the Aboriginals and the San, the importance of dreams as an inspiration to make rock art is questionable. Ben Watson is right when he states that some themes in dreams are universal for all people, no matter what cultural context. As described below this is also the case with other forms of altered states of consciousness. One example Watson gives is that the dreaming of being chased by dangerous animals might be directly linked to the (useful) primal fear of these dangerous animals, like snakes. Creatures like this trigger an instinct and emotion so strong, that they also come back in our dreams. Watson claims that for this reason it can be explained why ferocious animals have been painted in rock art. I do not

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agree with him, if it was just to point out that the dangerous animals in rock art are greatly outnumbered by herbivores and other less harmful organisms (with the exception of perhaps Dolní Věstonice, as Watson states himself, for the great number of lion head terracotta’s there). However, it is unreasonable to state that dreams had no influence whatsoever on the creating of rock art. Dreams most likely did indeed have a greater meaning in the Palaeolithic period, and it is likely that, of the dreams that were remembered, a spiritual meaning was derived. This spiritual meaning could have very well ended up on the walls of a cave. Although this may be the case, I do not believe there was a consistent process of dreaming and later painting the content of the dream on a rock surface. Since the 1960’s a lot of research has been done on altered states of consciousness and the effects of drugs, mainly that of LSD. Psychiatric patients in the western world were given high doses of LSD and were told to draw what they were seeing or explain what they were feeling. This led to some interesting results. It turned out that many different patients with different types of illnesses saw some things that were the same. This isn’t very strange, considering the human nervous system is the same for everyone. These things are called entopics, entoptic phenomena, entoptic designs, constants or phosphenes (Fig. 2). They represent the images the brain creates when in an altered state of consciousness. The mental images that have been recorded by the laboratory experiments are luminous, pulsating, contracting or expanding and blending. They include changing geometric shapes, zigzag patterns, dots, grids, meandering lines and U-shapes. They mostly appear in an early or light stage in the altered state of consciousness. As we have read, a trance can be induced by visual driving as well. Research has been done on what people see when in a trance induced by visual driving. The research method is to place goggles (Fig. 3) that have strong LED lights embedded in them which can transmit light at different frequencies on the subject. When the subjects keeps his eyes closed and the light is being transmitted, several entoptic phenomena can be recognised (How art made the world, [DVD]). In figure 4 you can see several phenomena as described by the subject.

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Fig. 1: Sensory deprivation; It’s often used in torture. 5

Fig. 1: Sensory deprivation; It’s often used in torture.

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Fig. 2: A few common entoptic phenomena (Lewis-Williams, 2002). Fig. 3: Goggles with strong Led

Fig. 2: A few common entoptic phenomena (Lewis-Williams, 2002).

2: A few common entoptic phenomena (Lewis-Williams, 2002). Fig. 3: Goggles with strong Led lights can

Fig. 3: Goggles with strong Led lights can induce a trance through visual driving.

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Fig. 4: Several entoptic phenomena as described by a subject undergoing a trance through visual

Fig. 4: Several entoptic phenomena as described by a subject undergoing a trance through visual driving.

The entoptic phenomena are the same for everyone, although it can’t be predicted whether they will be seen and if so, what type will be seen. The way in which they are being interpreted can, however, differ per person. This has a lot to do with the background of this person, such as in what culture the person has been raised or what their past has been like. We can therefore distinguish the universal ‘neurological’ elements and the ‘psychological’ elements that are culture-specific (Lewis-Williams, 2002).

II.1 Hallucination

Basically, hallucinations are perceptions in the absence of external stimuli that can be perceived as reality. The experiences that are often perceived are difficult to explain. The description Albert Hoffman and Richard Evans Schultes give probably comes close (Hofmann & Schultes, 1997):

“This last group [hallucinogens] is capable of causing radical changes in the perception of reality, space, time, and the self. Depersonalisation can be an effect. Without losing consciousness the person in question enters a dream world, that is sometimes more realistic than the real world. Colours are perceived as indescribably bright; objects lose their symbolic meaning and

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start to stand for themselves and gain so much in meaning that they start to live their own life. The changes in the mind and the extraordinary states of consciousness that are being summoned by hallucinogens, are so far from everyday life, that it is impossible to describe the experiences in these terms. Someone who is under the influence of a hallucinogen leaves the world he is familiar with and is no longer subject to the values of that world; he has entered a different dimension and lives in a different time.”

The hallucinations caused by toxic plants and the other manners of coming into an altered state of consciousness as described earlier, are no real hallucinations. Rather, the experiences are correctly described as pseudo hallucinations. The difference is that pseudo hallucinations can be recognized as a direct consequence of the altered state of consciousness, while those in real hallucinations are not separated from reality by the mind. For example, if one would hear a voice that is not there in an altered state of consciousness, it would only be heard in the head in the case of experiencing a pseudo hallucination, while someone suffering from real hallucinations will perceive the voice as coming from outside, as an actual sound. Real hallucinations are most common in people who are suffering from serious mental illnesses.

III. Hallucinogens in the Palaeolithic world

Plants that have an (temporary) influence on the mental and bodily functions of humans are what we call hallucinogens. Some fungi also belong to this group. They are basically poisonous organisms that are mostly not harmful for humans when used in the right amounts. A very small group of animals also produce toxins that can have hallucinatory effects, such as the Bufo alvarius (Colorado River toad). This toad discards a poison from the skin when touched, that can be dried and can be smoked or taken orally (The vaults of Erowid [online]). However, this toad and similar toads live only in areas outside of the reach of the Palaeolithic people, and it is unlikely they would ever have gotten their hands on them. There are also the synthetic hallucinogens, but I assume I don’t have to explain that these as well were beyond the reach of the Palaeolithic people.

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Most of the primitive hunter-gatherer cultures (actually, every culture, whether it is primitive or not) that still exist today are at least familiar with hallucinogens. The plants are often considered to be sacred or even gods themselves. It is likely that in a world where science plays a subordinate role, plants with powers that can ‘place’ a person in a different world will have a great spiritual meaning. The plants are often part of rituals and the like, as will be described later in this essay. This chapter will be on the different types of hallucinogens that might have been available to the Palaeolithic people. It is likely that for a culture such as in the Palaeolithic period, and basically most other hunter-gatherer cultures, all the plant life around was known in great detail. The plants play an important role as a source of food, building material, tools, medicine and also ingredients in rituals. It is not unrealistic to state that the direct effects of present hallucinogens when ingested were known to the Palaeolithic people. The climate in the Palaeolithic period changes from time to time. There were conditions much colder than those today, but also conditions much warmer than those today. Palaeolithic art was mostly made in the Upper- Palaeolithic period, in the pleniglacial period. We know this, thanks to the archaeobotany research done on Palaeolithic sites. In this climate, mostly herbs and grasses, aspen and a minority of pines were growing (Fig. 5). The climate was quite cold, and in the north of France the ground might have been seasonally frozen. A little later, in the Bølling, the climate was a little gentler, with more trees growing and less seasonal permafrost. It is clear that we can’t expect the more exotic hallucinogens to grow in a climate like this, like psychoactive cacti. Although I haven’t looked at the archaeobotany research done on the Palaeolithic research and what hallucinogens have been found, I will discuss some hallucinogens that could have grown in this period in Europe.

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Fig. 5: The climate as it was in the Pleniglacial (below) and in the Bølling (above).

In Plants of the Gods (Schultes & Hofmann, 1997) the Amanita muscaria is described as a possible mushroom to have grown in a climate as described above. It grows in open forests or on the edge of a forest made out of pine trees and aspen or birch trees. The mushroom grows pretty much everywhere in the world, and is better known as the red fly agaric. This mushroom was probably also the ingredient to the Soma of ancient India. Some other mushrooms in the Amanita genus are not psycho-active and contain a deadly poison. It is not recommended for anyone who is not a mushroom expert to pick mushrooms and consume them. The effects a consumer of the Amanita muscaria may experience are: euphoria, pain relief, relaxation, internal dialogue, synesthesia (the smelling of words or the seeing of sounds), clarity, internal focus, sociability and sometimes sexual feelings (The vaults of Erowid [online]). These effects pretty much sum up the usual effects of a ‘trip’, an altered state of consciousness induced by some hallucinogens, like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. In the trip mostly different stages can be recognised, each with different effects. There are a lot of cosmopolitan mushrooms in this world that could also have grown in Palaeolithic times, like the mushrooms of the Panaeolus or the Psilocybe genus. There are many psycho-active mushrooms with the active ingredient psilocybin; too many to name here. They all have similar effects like the Amanita, only look a lot less attractive (mostly thin long stems with a pointy hood, in a brown or white colour). Another possible plant to inhabit the Palaeolithic plains and forests might have been the Hyoscyamus Niger (Fig. 7), member of the Henbane family. Most members of this family possess some kind of poison that sometimes also has ingredients that can induce hallucinations. This plant was widely used in the Middle-Ages by (supposed) witches and sorcerers (Schultes

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& Hofmann, 1997). It can grow in regions that have strong winters, so likely it could also have grown in the Palaeolithic landscape of Middle- and South- Europe. The plant’s poison causes the user to lose consciousness; in this state the hallucinations are seen. The plant also has a pain-killing effect on the body and can cause complete forgetfulness. A plant like the black hendane but less likely to have grown in the Palaeolithicum is the Mandragora offincinarum or mandrake plant. Today it grows only in the south of Europe, since this plant appreciates warmer climates.

of Europe, since this plant appreciates warmer climates. Fig. 6: Amanita muscaria , an attractive mushroom.

Fig. 6: Amanita muscaria, an attractive mushroom.

A plant that nowadays grows in mountain valleys and in meadows is the Ranunculus acris (Fig. 8). This plant is better known as the meadow buttercup. As innocent as it may look, according to several (particularly Chinese) sources it contains ingredients that cause delirium and hallucinogens. It is a herb, and therefore it is likely it would have grown in the Palaeolithic landscape, especially considering the cold mountains it often grows in now. It grows in all parts of the world in moderate climates. Tests have shown that the plant does contain glycoside ranuncoside, so it might have some effects.

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Fig. 7: Hyoscyamus Niger , the black henbane. Fig. 8: Ranunculus acris , the meadow

Fig. 7: Hyoscyamus Niger, the black henbane.

Fig. 7: Hyoscyamus Niger , the black henbane. Fig. 8: Ranunculus acris , the meadow buttercup.

Fig. 8: Ranunculus acris, the meadow buttercup.

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There are many hallucinogens all over the world that grow in many different climates. In the barren landscape of the Pleniglacial period naturally a small diversity of plants would grow. This may be true, but it were mostly herbs and grasses that were thriving; may it be especially herbs that possess hallucinatory qualities. It is very plausible that different types of mushrooms with psycho-active qualities grew in this climate as well. The Amanita muscaria for example was for a long period of time the only intoxicating substance in Siberia; it has been used by the Siberian tribes and their shamans for a long time, until alcohol was introduced by the Russians. It is likely that also the Palaeolithic people were familiar with hallucinogens. Like any other hunter-gatherer culture they knew their surroundings in and out. Spirituality was most probably very important, and what could be considered more spiritual than plants and fungi that made you see supernatural things?

IV. Rock Art in various cultures

Before we look at a few cultures that have made rock art, it should be explained what exactly we mean by the term ‘Rock Art’. I noticed that different scientists often have different ideas of what the term Rock Art means, but mostly, it is used to indicate the art that is made in prehistoric times or by hunter-gatherer societies on rock surfaces or solely made out of rocks (Whitley, 2005). In this meaning there are many different forms of Rock Art. It could indicate painting (pictographs) or engravings (petroglyphs) on rock surfaces, in caves or shelters or on boulders in the landscape; a whole different type is the creating of art on the ground surface, either by scratching away the upper layer of dirt (intaglios) or by placing rocks in a certain pattern (geoglyphs) for instance to indicate a sacred place (Whitley, 2005). The Palaeolithic culture will be the last to be described, so that we can keep all the information that is gathered in this essay in mind when reading on the Palaeolithic cave art. I realise that many different cultures existed in the Palaeolithic period, but whenever I refer to ‘the Palaeolithic culture’ or ‘the

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Palaeolithic people’, I generalise and mean to refer to the Palaeolithic cave painters in Europe.

IV.1 The San of southern Africa

The San, sometimes referred to as bushmen, nowadays live in the Kalahari desert. About a hundred years ago, they still inhabited southern Africa, but are now cast away. The San no longer make Rock Art, simply because there are no rock surfaces in the Kalahari to paint on. The people who did once paint in southern Africa, are all deceased. Luckily records of interviews with southern African San are preserved, collected by Wilhelm Blake. Most of the research on the San Rock Art has been done by David Lewis-Williams (Lewis- Williams, 1990, 1992, 2002), who first discovered the connection between the San Rock Art and that of the Palaeolithic caves. A famous sight where many of the paintings are set is the Natal Drakensberg (Lewis-Williams & Dowson,

1992).

Like in the case of the Palaeolithic cave art, archaeologists first dismissed the art as being made to increase the chance of a successful hunt. However, the San only depict a small number of creatures, of which the most are elands. You could almost state that they are obsessed with the eland, at least in an artistic point of view. The eland is the largest gazelle in Africa (Fig. 9). They hunt many more animals than the eland alone. Furthermore, Lewis- Williams also discovered many other features of the art that didn’t seem to add up to the theory that the art was a depiction of the San daily life or to increase the chance of a successful hunt. Many human figures that can be recognised in the San Rock Art, have animal features. They have animal heads or body parts, mostly those that original would belong to the eland (Fig. 10). These are called anthropomorphic figures or therianthropes, the last term indicating more of a transition from human to animal than the first.

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Lewis-Williams discovered that most of the human and anthropomorphic figures in the art resembled shamans. He found this in the interviews Wilhelm Blake had with the original San living in southern Africa. The San shamans perform a trance-dance (‘dance of blood’) that is still practised today among the Kalahari San. In this ritual the members of the tribe start singing, backed up by music made by other members of the tribe: a rhythmic, mesmerizing sound is created and the shamans start dancing to this music and at a certain point in time come into a trance. The trance in this case is induced by auditory/rhythmic and kinetic driving. Occasionally a shaman loses consciousness and falls down for a short period of time, or starts bleeding from the nose; this is called the ‘dying’ of the shamans, where they enter the spirit world. Sometimes this is also referred to as ‘going underwater’ or ‘entering a waterhole’ to where the spirits live. Naming it this way is not strange, considering what the shaman goes through when he goes into trance: the struggling, gasping for breath, sense of weightlessness, inhibited movement, affected vision, a ‘bubbling’ sound in the ears and finally the loss of conscious does have a lot of resemblances with the experience of drowning. We can now safely conclude that the depictions on the rocks made by the San are vivid descriptions of ecstatic religious experience. Sometimes the bleeding from the nose is also depicted (Fig. 10, low right and Fig. 11). It is not known if the shamans were also the painters in all cases, but at least one case is described in Blake’s reports. Lewis-Williams writes about these reports and draws some conclusions (Lewis-Williams, 2002):

“The mutually confirmatory comments given by Qing and Diä!kwain show that many of the paintings evoked an experience linking humans with the invisible and mystical world. Unlike the ephemeral dance, which afforded humans access to the beyond, the paintings remained constantly on view to affirm the reality of the otherworld and to proclaim the ultimate values of San society.”

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Fig. 9: The Eland or Taurotragus oryx , the largest genus of antelope in Africa.

Fig. 9: The Eland or Taurotragus oryx, the largest genus of antelope in Africa.

Taurotragus oryx , the largest genus of antelope in Africa. Fig. 10: A copy of southern

Fig. 10: A copy of southern African San Rock Art, “Dance group” found in the Cave Province. It depicts several eland and therianthropes that have eland traits.

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Fig. 11: Dancing shamans in trance; their noses are bleeding. While in trance, the shamans

Fig. 11: Dancing shamans in trance; their noses are bleeding.

While in trance, the shamans also see entoptic phenomena (Fig. 12). One of the most frequently experienced entoptic phenomena is that where a vortex or tunnel is experienced and into which the subject is drawn. They interpret this as going through a tunnel in the ground or in the water. In the laboratory experiments done on western psychiatric patients some experiences were described as flat objects turning into 3-dimensional objects, distances fluctuate; small items would grow in size and seem more important, while big items could become smaller, including the subject itself. Sometimes the hallucinatory imagery seemed to be projected onto a flat surface. For the San, the experience might have been somewhat frightful and it has been said by some San tribe members that the shaman needs to change into animals to protect themselves when in the spiritual world. Like the aboriginals of Australia, the trance-dance and rituals were probably held at a rock shelter. The shamans going into trance were probably surrounded by Rock Art; Lewis-Williams rightfully wonders what effect this could have had on their trance (Lewis-Williams, 2002). The rock surface also had a spiritual function in the creation of the Rock Art. As far as the rock surface goes, all the cracks, lines and the structure of the rock were important. Some shamans believed they would enter the otherworld through these (the tunnel). This explains many cracks and dark patches on the rock showing partial humans or animals coming out of them (see low right on fig. 10 and fig. 12, D5).

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Fig. 12: Entoptic phenomena in San and Coso (also an African) culture. Some of the

Fig. 12: Entoptic phenomena in San and Coso (also an African) culture. Some of the images show the interpretations made from the entoptic phenomena.

Common entoptic phenomena that can be recognised in the San Rock Art are the navicular entoptic phenomena, as Lewis-Williams refers to (Lewis- Williams, 2002). It sometimes looks a little like a boat, hence the name (Fig. 13). The entoptic phenomenon consists of a set of catenary curves, often combined with flickering lines or zigzag shapes. Within the arc there is a ‘black hole’ of invisibility, which is indicated on figure 13 as a dot. In the San Rock Art these navicular shapes are often painted in combination with winged insects (Fig. 14). This indicates that they possibly resemble honeycombs with bees. The San certainly enjoyed to eat honeycombs (Fig. 15). Some people believe it is nothing more than a depiction of what the San like to eat, but others, like Lewis-Williams, believe these are interpretations of the entoptic phenomena

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that are seen by the shamans in trance. This would be more likely, in my opinion, considering the spiritual nature of the Rock Art and the existing link with the shamanistic trance. Lewis-Williams adds another argument for this:

not only the vision is altered in trance, but also other senses, like the hearing. In trance, the hearing of a buzzing sound is quite common. The interpretation of this sound as being bees is a psychological element that differs per culture.

bees is a psychological element that differs per culture. Fig. 13: Three variations of the navicular

Fig. 13: Three variations of the navicular entoptic phenomenon. After Siegel 1977.

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Fig. 14: Rock painting with a navicular sign and winged insects, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. Fig. 15:

Fig. 14: Rock painting with a navicular sign and winged insects, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg.

sign and winged insects, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. Fig. 15: Honeycombs in a tree; they indeed do look

Fig. 15: Honeycombs in a tree; they indeed do look like navicular entoptic phenomena.

Sometimes not only the cracks on the rock surface are used as ‘portals’ to the otherworld; in that case a black hole is painted in which animals and human figures enter and exit. This is probably derived from the entoptic phenomenon that shows a black hole in the centre where vision is absent at that time (low left, Fig. 4). In figure 16 this can be seen quite clearly.

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The last two examples are only a portion of all the information Lewis- Williams has gathered to prove that the rock art made by the San is inspired by the ecstatic religious experiences the shamans endure when in trance. What is remarkable is that there are many similarities between the art of the San and that of the Palaeolithic cave art. For instance, only several animals are chosen to be portrayed. Anthropomorphs are present as well and recognisable entoptic phenomena can be seen. For further analysis of the San rock art, also in comparison to the Palaeolithic cave art, I refer to the work of Lewis-Williams. The San do use trance in their rituals, but there are no records known of them using hallucinogens to induce this trance. Instead, they use auditory and kinetic driving. However, they did have access to several hallucinogens. In Africa several hallucinogens are known; Iboga (of the Dogbane family), is probably the most famous. But there are more: Bushman from Botswana rub cut-open roots of the Kwashi (Amaryllis species) over small incisions on their forehead, so that the active ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Kanna is probably no longer used, but was once chewed by the Hottentots to reach an euphoric and even hallucinatory state.

is probably no longer used, but was once chewed by the Hottentots to reach an euphoric

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Fig. 16: A black hole is painted from which eland feet are extended. Along a long line shamans and eland walk towards it.

IV.2 Aboriginals of Australia

Fairly little has been painted in Australia, considering the size of the continent. Some paintings can be found that were once believed to be made by an Indo-European culture that no longer lives in Australia (Mathew, J. 1983). Of course it was the aboriginals that created these paintings. Some of the paintings found in caves in the region are up to 40.000 years old. Some tribes still paint today, like the Oenpelli, in Arnhem Land (Northern Australia). One could almost say they are obsessed with painting (How art made the world [DVD]). They paint on different surfaces like rock, bark, didgeridoos and other crafted items. Many of the images are of the same theme and contain the same depictions. Mostly the barramundi-fish, the earth mother Yingana and the Lightning man are shown. Baldwin Spencer, who had spent some time with the Oenpelli, recognised these images to be the same as on the walls of the caves that were thousands of years old. This means there is a continuous link between the past and the present, which is unique in the world (Fig. 17 and 18). The aboriginals told Spencer that their images depicted stories. Their paintings do not consist out of a sequence of images, but simply a few characters and item put together; the pictures still show a story because the whole tribe knows the stories. The story is recognised by the main components that are being depicted.

because the whole tribe knows the stories. The story is recognised by the main components that

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Fig. 17: The barramundi-fish, as it is painted today (left) and in the prehistory (right).

as it is painted today (left) and in the prehistory (right). Fig. 18: The earth mother

Fig. 18: The earth mother Yingana, modern (left) and prehistoric (right).

It was discovered later (around the ‘60s) that the paintings were not just ‘visual’ creativity. The aboriginals perform rituals at the rock shelters, where rhythmic music is played with percussion, didgeridoos and singing. People will dance to the music and tell the ancient stories. The painted walls of the rock shelter would hence come alive. It is probably because of the combination of music, story telling and painting that the long continuous link from the past to the present could exist. When more than one sense is stimulated, the message of art becomes stronger. Remarkably, nothing is known of the use of hallucinogens in Australia and New Zealand. The plants although, are present. The popular and widely used Kava-kava plant is used by the Aboriginals on the islands, but it is not a hallucination-inducing plant, and its effect is more like that of coffee (which is a hypnotic). This, together with the absence of recognisable entoptic phenomena (with some doubtful exceptions: dots all over paintings or latticed signs as in figure 19) indicate that it is unlikely that the aboriginals of Australia depicted the things they saw in an altered state of consciousness.

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Fig. 19: Aboriginal art in Carnarvon Gorge. Latticed signs are also present. IV.3 Meso- and

Fig. 19: Aboriginal art in Carnarvon Gorge. Latticed signs are also present.

IV.3 Meso- and South-American tribes

Although as many hallucinogens probably grow in both the hemispheres, the use of the plants is a lot greater in Middle- and South-America. Why this is the case is not certain. Lots of research has been done on the hallucinogens in this part of the world, especially on the hallucinogens used by native tribes. Just to give you and indication of the extensive use of hallucinogens, here are a number of plants used in the centre and the south of America:

Anadenanthera (Fig. 20), Datura inoxia (Fig. 21), Trichocereus (San Pedro), Banisteriopsis (Ayahuasca), Brugmansia vulcanicola, Lophophora (Peyote), different types of mushrooms, Virola, Turbina Corymsoba and Ipomoea violacea (Schultes & Hofmann, 1997). The majority of these hallucinogens are used in Mexico. The native tribes there seem to have grown a special affection of the hallucinogens, and they are entwined with their culture in many aspects.

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Fig. 20: Anadenanthera ; the beans of this plant are ground up and snorted. Fig.

Fig. 20: Anadenanthera; the beans of this plant are ground up and snorted.

; the beans of this plant are ground up and snorted. Fig. 21: Datura is a

Fig. 21: Datura is a beautiful shrub, but has a strong smell and frightening effects when consumed.

A lot of the hallucinogens occur in the mythology of the tribes. It is said they are gods or flesh of the gods and are eaten at ceremonies. Usually only

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the men are allowed to eat from it (perhaps to avoid premature childbirth), but in some Mexican cultures the shamans are mostly female. The ceremonies were strict and very serious. In general, the hallucinogens are used to speak with the spirit world or talk to ancestors. Ayahuasca, which is known under many names, is one of the most common used hallucinogen in South-America. The aboriginal tribes believe it can release the soul from the body and let it float to other worlds, where the subject can communicate with ancestors. A potion is made by boiling the bark for a very long time, occasionally with some other ingredients to change the effects or strengthen them. After taking the plant, nausea is not unusual. Throwing up is actually a part of the purification process when ayahuasca is used in healing rituals. In the rituals music and dancing is often present The natives also paint; the themes often portray rituals or mythological stories. Often the same depictions are repeated at different places (sometimes on a house, another time on a rock surface; the pots in which the ayahuasca is prepared is also decorated with entoptic phenomena that are seen in the trance). The depictions often tell stories of how the world began; stories that have been said to be lived in the trance caused by taking the ayahuasca in. It has often been suggested that most of the South-American art, in whatever form, was inspired by hallucinogens. The art is mostly very colourful, like that of the Huichol indians (Fig. 22).

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Fig. 22: A Huichol yarn painting. Are their entoptic phenomena in this? Most of the

Fig. 22: A Huichol yarn painting. Are their entoptic phenomena in this?

Most of the rock art in this region is found in Mesoamerica, where for instance the enormous intaglios are found in Peru, the Nazca lines (Fig. 23). Some rock surfaces have also been painted, but little research has been done on this subject. The fact that so many hallucinogens are used in this part of the world however, suggests that undoubtedly their art depicts entoptic phenomena, either because of the trance or because of the effects of the ingredients of the hallucinogen that is used. The art in this part of the world is especially characterised by mythological scenes in bright colours, where realistic depiction plays an inferior role. In the societies the use of hallucinogens is not restricted for the shamans only, at least all the men are welcome to join in (or obligated to).

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Fig. 23: One of the Nazca Lines in Peru, this one resembles a monkey. IV.4

Fig. 23: One of the Nazca Lines in Peru, this one resembles a monkey.

IV.4 Palaeolithic Period

The art made in the Palaeolithic period was made by Homo sapiens. It was actually made relatively late, from 35.000 years on. Modern man lived a long time before this time already. Many archaeologists and other scientists have wondered why this ‘creative explosion’ didn’t begin any earlier. In the DVD How art made the world this matter is discussed as well. In it is stated that the Palaeolithic people somehow found a way to paint two-dimensional figures that before that time were unknown to man (I cannot resist adding here that I can recommend the DVD mentioned to anyone who has a general interest in art and archaeology, it’s great for those long, rainy days). In our world filled with signs and symbols, it is almost impossible to imagine a world where a two- dimensional picture would not have been recognised. It has been suggested by different archaeologists, like Henri Breuil (Laming, A., 1959), that the prehistoric people made these images because they believed it would increase their chance of a successful hunt. This thought might not be very strange, considering the largest portion of the art consists of possibly hunted herbivores. However, after research done on the bones found in the caves and other sites, it has been shown that the preyed animals were not painted exclusively. Therefore it can be stated that there was little correlation between the diet and the paintings of the Palaeolithic people.

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However, there certainly was chosen to depict only certain animals and not all that would have been familiar to the Palaeolithic people. For further information on the history of the research done at Lascaux and other caves, and numerous theories on the meaning of the Palaeolithic Rock Art, I should refer you to the work of Annette Laming (Laming, A., 1959), who gives an excellent description in her book. Most of the Rock Art by the Palaeolithic people is made on rock surfaces, whether in caves or in open shelters. Subsequently, also boulders in the landscape or near the caves or open shelters can have Rock Art. The smaller stones that have been decorated belong to the art mobilier (mobile art) and I won’t discuss that in this essay, because it is considered to belong to a different group of Palaeolithic art. The places where we find Rock Art from the Palaeolithic period in Europe are mostly in southern Europe. Famous regions where Rock Art has been found are the Périgord, Pyrenees and the Provence in France, but also caves in Spain (such as Altamira) and in other regions are known. The Quaternary people made their art in many different ways. They could paint in outline, in flat wash, with or without colour, they made crude finger tracings in soft clay, deep or shallow engravings in the rock of delicate or crude design, they sculptured around natural irregularities of the rock- surface or by cutting it away and modelled in clay (Laming, A., 1959). In the caves, it is not unusual to find a wide range of different kinds of paintings of different styles. The places in the cave that have been painted also differ greatly. While large open spaces have definitely been exploited, also in very hard-to-get-to spaces and narrow passages the paintings and engravings occur. It is unlikely that especially the paintings in the narrow places were made for an aesthetic reason only. Rather, it is probable that the caves were sacred places, and the depths and secret passages were probably more sacred in nature due to their difficult-to-reach position. The theory that the painted caves were sanctuaries is strengthened by the fact that they were not used for residency (Laming, 1959). Other caves might have been used to live in, but the particular painted caves show no traces of this. It is possible

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however, that the caves were used for habitation for short periods, during feasts and special ceremonies that might have lasted for several days. It should be noted here that no sufficient archaeological research has been done in the painted caves and that visitors were mostly let in before the cave was completely mapped (including the floors). Most of the depictions are quite realistic. A wide variety of the wildlife can be recognized. The paintings and engravings show us what animals lived in Europe in the Palaeolithic period, and which were probably most important to the people who made these paintings. A large number of herbivores, such as horses, mammoths, bison, bovids, rhinos, deer and gazelle are among the creatures depicted. Some of these could be potentially dangerous, like the bison, rhinoceros and mammoths. Animals that were probably not hunted for food, like lions and bears, are also depicted. Not many humans have been depicted; when they are shown however, they lack the realism most of the animals possess. In many cases it is not the entire human that is portrayed, but only the genitalia, as many archaeologists believe. V-shaped engravings are considered to be vulvae. The meaning of these depictions probably have something to do with fertility. Plants and terrain are rarely seen in the Palaeolithic Rock Art. Some paintings might portray bushes, but they are quite vague. There are theories that the rock surface might sometimes have been used to indicate a terrain, as in the case of the frieze of the swimming deer in the Main Gallery of Lascaux. There, according to archaeologists like Annette Laming (Laming, A., 1959), the natural differences of the rock surface were used to indicate water, as only the heads and necks of the deer are depicted (Fig. 24). To me, this sounds like a typical western explanation. If figure 24 is compared to figure 10 and 16, it seems the deer might as well appear from a portal to the otherworld. This explanation is just as likely, if not more; considering the likeness of the San rock art with that of the Palaeolithic caves.

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Fig. 24: Heads and necks of deer come out of a natural irregularity of the

Fig. 24: Heads and necks of deer come out of a natural irregularity of the rock surface.

Next to the animals and humans that are depicted, frequently vague signs can be recognised that don’t seem to have a clear meaning. These, in the case of the Palaeolithic art, can be recognised as dots (placed together), darts, latticed signs or other abstract figures. Sometimes lines are protruding from the nose of animals or anthropomorphic figures. A good explanation has yet to be written down. There are theories however; many archaeologists are convinced that the darts do actually portray darts or harpoons, but this is connected to their belief that the animals were depicted to ‘capture’ the animals before they would actually go out hunting. The lines protruding from the nose or mouth do look a lot like the nasal blood that is often depicted in San rock art (Fig. 11 and 25). In the San rock art this indicates the hallucinations experienced by the shamans in trance. If the Palaeolithic people indeed experienced trance, it is possible they experienced the same. This might have been depicted.

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Fig. 25: A bear with a substance coming out of the mouth and/or nose. It

Fig. 25: A bear with a substance coming out of the mouth and/or nose. It is also covered in scratches and dots.

The latticed signs that occur among the depictions of animals, in case of Lascaux, increase in number in the last phase of the cave’s use. They are either painted, engraved or both. Some of them are also coloured (Fig. 26 and cover). A different type can be seen in figure 27. These symbols were believed to resemble huts or primitive houses, and are therefore called tectiforms. I believe they are entoptic phenomena. They look a lot like the entoptic phenomena that are described by the subjects in western research.

entoptic phenomena that are described by the subjects in western research. Fig. 26: Latticed symbols found
entoptic phenomena that are described by the subjects in western research. Fig. 26: Latticed symbols found

Fig. 26: Latticed symbols found at Lascaux.

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Fig. 27: Tectiforms in the shape of waterlily leaves. The abstract figures are usually depicted

Fig. 27: Tectiforms in the shape of waterlily leaves.

The abstract figures are usually depicted near realistic depictions of animals (Fig. 28). They are not limited to only the hard-to-reach places or the most (or least) sacred. An possible explanation could be that the Palaeolithic people experienced trance and saw entoptic phenomena in the dark cave thanks to sensory deprivation of sight. In the absence of any stimuli, the brain creates images for us to see. It is likely these experiences were considered to be religious experiences, or contact with the spirits.

for us to see. It is likely these experiences were considered to be religious experiences, or

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Fig. 28: A depiction of a horse, running towards a latticed symbol. On the horse’s thigh there is an arrow.

An example of these abstract figures can be found in the cave of Peche Merle (France), where near some horses numerous dots have been placed, not only on the bodies of the horses but outside the outline as well (Fig. 29). In the same cave, at the end of a deep and narrow passage, a combination of these dots and the placing of paintings in hard-to-reach places was discovered.

placing of paintings in hard-to-reach places was discovered. Fig. 29: Horses from Peche Merle, France. Note

Fig. 29: Horses from Peche Merle, France. Note the very small heads and the dots places over their body and outside the outlines.

Recently, connections have been made between the art of the Palaeolithic caves and the Rock Art in southern Africa which was made by the San. Lewis-Williams’ discoveries on the meaning of the San artwork are very important to the prehistoric studies. Not only because the art of both cultures show many resemblances, but also because their meanings were probably very alike.

V. Conclusion

Only a few cultures have been discussed in this essay, but there are many more hunter-gatherer cultures around the world that are known to make rock art and use hallucinogens, like many North-American tribes. It is clear however

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that the hunter-gatherers attach great value to the spiritual world and the world around them. They have great knowledge of the local plants and trees and know how to use them. This was probably not any different for the Palaeolithic cultures. Because of the cold climate the diversity of plants was smaller than, for instance, that of the tropical jungles of South-America, but plenty of hallucinogens must have grown there. Most likely the plants of the Henbane family and psycho-active mushrooms, such as the Amanita muscaria were present. Considering most hunter-gatherer cultures use hallucinogens, with a few exceptions, it is likely also the Palaeolithic people used them. Whether this was the reason people started creating rock art, is another question. It would be very hard to prove this is the case. However, entoptic phenomena have been recognised in the paintings; these occur especially vivid when under the influence of hallucinogens. We must keep in mind however, that looking at the paintings alone is taking them out of context and impoverishing their meaning. The paintings probably had a spiritual origin, as in all the other cultures that have made rock art. Music, dance and singing and other kinds of rituals might have been performed around the paintings. It is also important to keep in mind that the places where we find concentrations of Rock Art are not museums. The art is scattered over the rock surface, made by many different people and over a very long period of time. While in a museum only extraordinary and beautiful works of great expertise are put together, mostly with the same theme or of the same time, on the rock surfaces there are depictions that vary in themes that might have nothing to do with each other at all; not only the most talented made Rock Art. It can therefore be difficult to decipher the art. To conclude, I believe trance and spiritual rituals played a part in the creating of the cave paintings. Possibly people begun painting thanks to the entoptic phenomena they experienced in the caves. Two-dimensional images, as if portrayed on a flat surface (the rock surface), could be seen in the hallucinations. There is no way to prove that this was what started the paintings. However, the Palaeolithic people did use hallucinogens in my

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opinion, since this is only likely considering the other hunter-gatherer cultures. In conclusion I would also like to add a picture I found in Lewis-Williams work (Lewis-Williams, 2002), that shows the similarities between the entoptic phenomena described in laboratories, recognised in the San rock art and in the Palaeoltihic rock art.

in the San rock art and in the Palaeoltihic rock art. Fig. 30: Known entoptic phenomena,

Fig. 30: Known entoptic phenomena, San and Coso rock art entoptic phenomena and Palaeolithic art entoptic phenomena.

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Bibliography

Furst, P.T. 1972. Flesh of the Gods – the ritual use of hallucinogens. Praeger publishers: New York.

Harmer, M.J. 1979. Hallucinogens and shamanism. Oxford University Press:

New York.

How art made the world: a thrilling journey to the heart of creativity. 2006. [DVD] Oxford: BBC/Just entertainment, 270 mins.

Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux – paintings & engravings. Penguin books:

Harmondsworth, Middlesex.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. 1990. Discovering southern African rock art. David Philip publishers: Claremont, South Africa.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. may 8, 1992. Vision, power and dance: the genesis of a southern African rock art panel. Veertiende kroon-voordracht, stichting Nederlands museum voor anthropologie en praehistorie, Amsterdam.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. & Dowson, T.A. 1992. Rock paintings of the Natal Drakensberg. University of Natal Press: Pietermaritzberg.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. 2002. A cosmos in stone: interpreting religion and society through rock art (archaeology of religion). AltaMira Press: U.S.

Mathew, J. 1893. “The cave paintings of Australia, their authorship and significance.” Journal of the Anthropological institute, August 1893, pp. 42-52.

Ruspoli, M. & Coppens, Y. 1986. Lascaux: un nouveau regard. Paris: Bordas

Schultes, R.E. & Hofmann, A. 1997. Over de planten der goden (Plants of the gods). Het Spectrum: Utrecht.

Ucko, P.J. 1977. Form in indigenous art – schematisation in the art of Aboriginal Australia and prehistoric Europe. Australian institute of Aboriginal studies:

Canberra.

The vaults of Erowid: psychoactive toads. 1995-2008. [online]. [Accessed 10th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.erowid.org/animals/toads/toads.shtml>

Watson, B. 2007. “Dreaming phenomena and palaeoart.” Before Farming 2007/4, article 1.

Watson, B. 2008. “Oodles of doodles? Doodling behaviour and its implications for understanding palaeoarts”, Rock Art Research Volume 25, number 1, pp.

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35-60.

Whitley, D.S. 2005. Introduction to rock art research. Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek, California.

List of Pictures

Fig. 1: Sensory deprivation. Scienceblog Neurophilosophy. January 27, 2008. [online]. [Accessed 14 th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2008/01/sensory_deprivation.php

>

Fig. 2: Common entoptic phenomena. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page unknown.

Fig. 3: Goggles with LED lights. How art made the world. 2006 [DVD]

Fig. 4: Several entoptic phenomena as described by a subject. How art made the world. 2006 [DVD]

Fig. 5: Climate in the Pleniglacial and Bølling. Niekus, M.J. Jong Paleolithicum Deel 2. 2008 [Microsoft Powerpoint], slide 7.

Fig. 6: Amanita muscaria. The vaults of Erowid. Date unknown. [online]. [Accessed 15 th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.erowid.org/plants/show_image.php?i=amanitas/amanita_musc

aria22.jpg>

Fig. 7: Hyoscyamus Niger. The vaults of Erowid. 2002. [online]. [Accessed 15 th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.erowid.org/plants/show_image.php?i=henbane/hyoscyamus_ni

ger5.jpg>

Fig. 8: Ranunculus acris. Flora von Deutschland, Österreich un der Schweiz (1885). 2007. [online]. [Accessed 16th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web: <http://caliban.mpiz-

koeln.mpg.de/~stueber/thome/band2/tafel_083.html>

Fig. 9: Eland. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Date unknown. [online]. [Accessed 13th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/181937/eland>

Fig. 10: “Dance group” found in the Cave Province. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page unknown.

Fig. 11: Dancing shamans with nosebleed. Lewis-Williams, 1990. Discovering southern African Rock Art. Page 32.

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Fig. 12: Entoptic phenomena in San and Coso (also an African) culture. Lewis- Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page unknown.

Fig. 13: Three variations of the navicular entoptic phenomenon. Lewis- Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page unknown.

Fig. 14: A navicular sign and winged insects. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page 147.

Fig. 15: Honeycombs in a tree. Nationmaster.com. 2003-2005. [online]. [Accessed 16th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Honeycomb>

Fig. 16: San black hole. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page 151.

Fig. 17: Barramundi-fish. How art made the world. 2006 [DVD]

Fig. 18: Yingana. How art made the world. 2006 [DVD]

Fig. 19: Aboriginal art in Carnarvon Gorge. Wikipedia. 2006. [online]. [Accessed 16th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Aboriginal_art_Carnarvon_Gorge.jpg>

Fig. 20: Anadenanthera. Schultes, R.E. & Hofmann, A. 1997. Over de planten der goden (Plants of the gods). Page 34.

Fig. 21: Datura. Vascular plant image library. 2008. [online]. [Accessed 17th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://botany.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/imaxxsol.htm>

Fig. 22: Huichol yarn painting. Galeria Indigena. Date unknown. [online]. [Accessed 17th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://www.galeriaindigena.com/index.php3>

Fig. 23: Nazcal line monkey. Facepunch studios>gigantic symbol seen on google earth. 2008 [online]. [Accessed 17th December 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:

<http://forums.facepunchstudios.com/showthread.php?t=519059>

Fig. 24: Deer heads. Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux – paintings & engravings. Plate

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Fig. 25: Bear. Ruspoli, M. & Coppens, Y. 1986. Lascaux: un nouveau regard. Page 66.

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Fig. 26: Latticed symbols. Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux – paintings & engravings. Page 123, 124.

Fig. 27: Tectiforms. Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux – paintings & engravings. Page unknown.

Fig. 28: Horse with latticed symbol. Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux – paintings & engravings. Plate 28.

Fig. 29: Horse of Peche Merle. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page

208.

Fig. 30: Entoptic phenomena. Lewis-Williams, 2002. A cosmos in stone. Page unknown.

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