Giorgio Samorini
Ethnobotanist, ethnomycologist

The archaeology of psychoactive plants. A worldwide look

The human use of psychoactive plants is lost in the mists of time - as increasingly evidenced by archaeological research. In this talk the author, specialised in the archaeoethnobotany of intoxicant plants, provides a general picture of these findings, covering the main psychoactive plant sources of the world. For the first time, a list of the most ancient dates so far evidenced by archaeology is presented. There appears to be a general diffusion of the use of plant drugs from at least the Neolithic period (for the Old World) and the pre-Formative period (for the Americas). These dates should not to be understood as the first use of these plants, instead they refer to the oldest dates currently determined by either direct or indirect archaeological evidence, and several of these dates are likely to be modified back in time in accordance with future excavations and finds. For many renowned psychoactive plants – such as ayahuasca, jurema, iboga – no reliable archaeological data has yet been established; this lack is explained by the author in different ways.

Giorgio Samorini was born in Italy in 1957. He is an ethnobotanist and ethnomycologist specialized in the use of psychoactive plants and mushrooms. He carried out field research with native groups in Africa, Asia and the Americas, studying their use of visionary plants. He has carried out extensive research with the Bwiti cult of tropical Africa, where the visionary plant iboga is their entheogenic source, and he discovered the oldest archaeological documentation testifying the human use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Sahara Desert. He has authored many scientific papers and books, which have been published in various languages.