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High on Oxygen Deprivation

24 April 2021

At https://sciencex.com/news/2021-04-prehistoric-cave-painters-high-oxygen…. … this is not the first research to suggest European cave paintings are the product of people high on something or other – usually substances of one kind or another. Why are these paintings often found in caves or in difficult to access rock shelters. Perhaps the clue is in the last term – were they sheltering from some kind of event [and what might that have been]. A  new study claims low oxygen levels in poorly ventilated caves might induce hypexia – which may inspire hallucinations. Representations of people and animals are common elsewhere, on bone and ivory for example, or rock art on suitable flat rock faces. In Europe a lot of rock art, and cave art, was enacted from around 40,000 years ago, especially around 37,000 years ago [as far as cave art has been dated]. In other words, around the time of a mass die off event that killed numerous animals and brought the Neanderthals demise. It was at the cusp of the Laschamp magnetic reversal. Were people sheltering from unusually intense auroral phenomena?

The author of the Science X piece seems to have his feet on the ground. He points out that interpretation of cave art has a generational slant. For example, in the Victorian era they were seen as what they were, paintings of animals, hands, and figures of one kind or another. Depictions of life at the time of painting. A sort of landscape painting, popular in the 19th century. In the 20th century it got a bit more complicated. It was seen as magical – hunting and fertility magic. In more recent times they were seen as repositories of ecological information, but in the 1980s, coincident with psychodelia, cave art was interpreted as the product of altered states of consciousness. This latest idea of oxygen deprivation appears to fall into that same bracket. It is also published in the journal Time and Mind where such subjects are openly discussed as one way of envisioning past human behaviour, particularly the role of  shamans. However, the author intuitively undos some of the hype. He asks – what could have have caused ancient altered states of mind. Psychoactive substances, other than magic mushrooms, may not have been accessible in Pleistocene Eurasia. One might also add that instead, highly energetic auroral events could have done the same thing. Just an add on that might be pertinent. The author is sceptical of hallucinations of any kind, especially as inspiration for cave art. He even goes so far as to  say that oxygen levels in caves were more likely to produce lethargy, drowsiness, headaches and a general feeling of weakness, rather than inspire one to paint art on high cave walls. That takes a bit of planning – and a means of reaching high up the walls. Did they use ladders of some kind. He is also sceptical of drug induced hallucinations. He claims the imagination of humans is far richer than trance – shamans or otherwise [see Time and Mind 2021] or go to https://doi.org/10.1080/1751696X.2021.1903177 – an excelllent review of a subject not easily dealt with and qudos to Time and Mind – an open minded and refreshing journal, for publsihing the research in the first place.

At https://phys.org/news/2021-04-language-aligns-genetic-impact-health.html … Bantu speaking tribes in Africa possess varying amounts of admixture with San and Khoisan peoples they encountered on their migrations into eastern and southern Africa. As such, one can see why Nelson Mandela resembled, physically, or in the sense of photographs, San people, to a certain degree, rather than a classic Bantu profile. This is an important point in health matters as Bantu people may not have the same inherited genetic material to combat disease as the San and Nilotic peoples, for example, amd therefore treatment should vary according to admixture.


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