Lead image via

When the psychedelic revolution hit the United States in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the University of California at Berkeley was a hub for all things experimentation. A bastion of liberal openness just a bridge away from San Francisco’s flower power hub, Berkeley’s campus has seen no shortage of LSD, magic mushrooms, and a myriad of other substances used to transcend our world and explore the next.

And so it is only right that shortly after the 50th anniversary of the famed Summer of Love, Berkeley’s psychedelic reputation continues to renew itself. But this time, instead of inside dorm rooms, the hallucinogenic discovery is happening in classrooms and on archaeological digs.

According to a news release from the University, and first reported by Marijuana Moment, Cal scientists have published a research paper announcing the discovery of 1,000-year-old pouch containing trace amounts of psychedelic plants. The substances found, including DMT, are typically used in the production of ayahuasca, an incredibly powerful hallucinogen traditionally used for spiritual rituals in indigenous communities. 

“This is the first evidence of ancient South Americans potentially combining different medicinal plants to produce a powerful substance like ayahuasca,” UC Berkeley archaeologist Melanie Miller said in a statement to Berkeley News. “Our findings support the idea that people have been using these powerful plants for at least 1,000 years, combining them to go on a psychedelic journey, and that ayahuasca use may have roots in antiquity.”

Discovered in a Bolivian cave thought to be used as a burial site some 13,000-feet-high in the Andes mountain range, the drugs were found in a preserved leather pouch that had been crafted from three fox snouts. Inside the head stash, Miller and her team found trace amounts of DMT and harmine, two key ingredients in ayahuasca, as well as cocaine, bufotenine, and benzoylecgonine, suggesting that the pouch’s owner was well versed in plant medicine.

“A lot of these plants, if consumed in the wrong dosage, could be very poisonous,” Miller said. “So, whoever owned this bundle would need to have had great knowledge and skills about how to use these plants, and how and where to procure them.”

Since Miller and her team did not find any human remains in the same cave as the hallucinogenic stash sack, they cannot be sure that the substances were ever consumed by humans. But given the intricacies of those substances, it is hard to believe they were collected for any reason other than their psychedelic effects. And even without a human present, the discovery is groundbreaking in our picture of global drug consumption history.

“We were amazed to see the incredible preservation of these compounds in this ritual bundle,” Miller said, adding that the pouch was “the most amazing artifact I’ve had the privilege to work with.”

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter