Our understanding of the natural world has grown more in the past 150 years than throughout much of prior human history. Through science we’ve been able to see how ecosystems interact with one another, synthesize lifesaving drugs, and discover the steps we need to take to live more in harmony with nature. It’s important to realize; however, that while we know more scientifically about how the natural world operates, previous civilizations may have utilized resources in much more creative and practical ways. Today we’ll take a look the use of mushrooms throughout time and learn how important they may been in the evolution of modern man.
The earliest mention of a mushroom in human history was a cave painting found near Libya and Niger in what is known as the “Plateau of Rivers”. The mushroom painting is thought to be 5,500 years old, nearly 1,500 years before the birth of Christ. Surrounding the picture of the mushroom are what seem to be electric vibrations or an aura depicting the hallucinogenic effects that the mushroom may have had. It’s clear that from early on, mushrooms were a tool used by early man in his spiritual quests.
Mushrooms for Survival
In the early 90s, hikers exploring the Alps stumbled upon the frozen body an ancient man thought to be over 5,000 years old. He was wearing rudimentary clothes and carried a knapsack along with various survival items. One in particular struck researchers by surprise. Inside the rucksack were a few dried mushrooms. The particular type were thought to be useful as fire starters and for making a certain type of tea in times when food was scarce.
Mushrooms as a Part of Culture
Lest you think that mushrooms were only used by cavemen and wandering nomads, we’d like to stop you right there. Both the Greeks and Romans were known to use mushrooms for various purposes – some sinister and some for sustenance. Claudius II and Pope Clement were known to have died from poison mushrooms given to them by their enemies. One particularly delicious mushroom was known as “Caesar’s Mushroom” and the Greeks believed that mushrooms gave their soldiers strength.
Still in Use Today
Mushrooms are still being used today as our knowledge of them continues to grow. From medicine, to food, to building materials, fungi are a fact of life and will only continue to grow in importance as we strive to understand our place next to them in the natural world.
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