Ancient Egypt on ecstasy

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The Independent Online
PARTY-GOERS in ancient Egypt could have become induced into an ecstasy-like state of happiness with the help of a sacred plant called the blue lily.

Tests on volunteers have found that the blue lily, which Egyptologists had thought was a benign plant used only for decoration, can cause psychotropic effects similar to the modern party drug MDMA, or ecstasy.

Susan Duty, a pharmacologist at King's College London, monitored the effects of the blue lily on two people who reported that they felt happy and energetic and wanted to get up and dance. ``It is quite clear that the blue lily did have some psychoactive effects. Both of the volunteers were very talkative and energetic. At the same time they felt relaxed and contented and were also very happy,'' she said.

Historians had thought the sacred blue lily, which was found scattered over Tutankhamen's body when the Pharaoh's tomb was opened in 1922, was a purely symbolic flower. The new research, which will be transmitted tonight on Channel 4's Sacred Weeds series, suggests the blue lily may have also played a role as a stimulant during parties thrown by the ancient Egyptians.

``Many of these subjective effects we observed are parallel to those seen with ecstasy. Although this is an early stage of uncharted territory, these findings will be looked on with great interest by pharmacologists,'' Dr Duty said. The blue lily is depicted on the walls of the temple at Karnak and appeared throughout Egyptian art.