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Our ancestors took alcohol, drugs during rituals: Study

London: It is not that our ancestors did not indulge in alcohol or drugs; they just maintained that the use of opium poppies and hallucinogenic mushrooms was to connect with the higher self.

According to a fascinating research, use of alcohol and plant drugs was highly regulated among pre-historic people of Europe and went hand-in-hand with the belief system and sacred burial rituals.

"The use was an integral part of prehistoric beliefs, and that these substances were believed to aid in communication with the spiritual world," said Elisa Guerra-Doce of the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain.

Guerra-Doce, who found traces of sensory-altering products in tombs and ceremonial places, believes such substances are strongly linked to ritual usage.

"They were consumed in order to alter the usual state of consciousness, or even to achieve a trance state," she noted.

The substances were either used in the course of mortuary rites - to provide sustenance for the deceased in their journey into the afterlife - or as a kind of tribute to the underworld deities.

The right to use such substances may have been highly regulated given that they were a means to connect with the spirit world, and, therefore, played a sacred role among pre-historic European societies.

It is not surprising that most of the evidence derives from both elite burials and restricted ceremonial sites, suggesting the "possibility that the consumption of mind-altering products was socially controlled in prehistoric Europe", Guerra-Doce emphasised.

Her research appeared in Springer’s Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.

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