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July 28, 1978

American Indian Anthropology and Medicine

Author Affiliations

Washington, DC

JAMA. 1978;240(4):348. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290040026016

To the Editor.—  The hypothesis advanced by Wellmann that North American Indian rock paintings were executed by shamans under the influence of hallucinogens (239:1524, 1978) is intriguing. Grant1 also proposed this explanation and suggested that much of the rock art in Southern California likely dealt with healing, puberty, and fertility ceremonies.If this hypothesis is true, it serves to underscore two points often overlooked. First, the traditional use of hallucinogens and intoxicants among Indian tribes was a highly structured, religious experience. The introduction of grain alcohol led to a fundamentally antitraditional movement in which social controls of behavior were undermined.2 Secondly, there existed within American Indian cultures an unusually strong interest in empirical pharmacology and medical practice. The European invaders failed to recognize this shared interest, which could have served as a unique cultural bridge when the two societies encountered one another.2California holds yet another mystery