A Cave In Spain Contains the Earliest Known Depictions of Mushrooms

From Leon Shernoff’s excellent Mushroom, the Journal, an interesting article about the earliest artistic depiction of mushrooms. These were painted on a cave wall at Selva Pascuala in Spain some 6-8,000 years ago. In 2011, a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists and mycologists published a scientific paper in Economic Botany exploring the significance of this finding.

Mushroom Cave Painting

Those interested in the psychoactive fungi will find it noteworthy that the morphology of these fruiting bodies is a pretty good match for a local species, Psilocybe hispanica. Also, the only other figure on the panel is a bull, an animal whose manure provides the habitat where this coprophilous saprobe is typically found.

While the evidence is not conclusive, it certainly stands to reason that the Mesolithic people of Iberia would find such organisms a compelling subject for art, as do other prehistoric cultures and modern humans. However, I think it is also plausible that it is depicting, say, Macrolepiota proceraa choice non-psychoactive edible of similar proportions that is the target of much foraging interest in Spain.

Mushroom, the Journal is full of interesting and erudite articles such as this one. I’m a subscriber, and highly recommend it.

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About Christopher May

Chris is a radiologist in private practice in Scottsdale. He is married to Barbara May, with two grown children, Megan and Nick.
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