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Academic & Professional Books  Mycology

Fungi in the Ancient World How Mushrooms, Mildews, Molds, and Yeast Shaped the Early Civilizations of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East

By: Frank Matthews Dugan
152 pages, 13 b/w figs
Fungi in the Ancient World
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  • Fungi in the Ancient World ISBN: 9780890543610 Paperback Mar 2008 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £173.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Fungi in the Ancient World is a comprehensive review on the impact of fungi in helping to shape ancient civilizations. Mushrooms, mildews, molds, and yeast had a surprisingly profound impact on: diet, custom, politics, religion; human, animal, plant health; art, folklore, and the beginnings of science. This insightful book is a gateway to current methodologies for investigation of the co-evolution of plants, fungi, and humans from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages.

This well documented book presents reproductions and descriptions of fungal motifs in ancient art, myth, and folklore that enable direct examination of evidence by any reader, professional or lay. Interdisciplinary in scope, this detailed and illustrated book includes a historical perspective on co-evolution of fungi with early agriculture that provides documented summaries of contemporary research in this area, from archaeology to molecular-genetics. It also delivers a historical perspective on the impact of fungi on human and animal health in early times, with examples of current methods used to assess historical impacts of mycotoxins, allergens, and pathogens. Translations and summaries from relevant ancient Greek, Roman, Sumerian and other texts are included, demonstrating how ancients themselves observed and recorded significant impacts of fungi.

Peer reviewed for accuracy and balance, the book provides multiple perspectives from professionals in mycology, plant pathology, ancient history, and folklore. It summarizes a wide range of highly controversial published views on the impact of fungi on customs, folklore, and religion. In doing this, the title presents perspectives on what is probable, plausible, or improbable in this highly debated area that helped form western civilization.


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Fungi in Baking and Brewing

Baking: Light Bread and Heavy Ovens
Brewing: Fermentation Products and Deities
Wine in Feasting and Daily Life in Greece and Rome

Chapter 3: Edible Fungi

Mycophagy in Greece and Rome
Mycophagy in Other Cultures

Chapter 4: Fungi as "Entheogens"

Fungi, Philology, and Mythology

Matriarchies, Tanists, and Ritual Sacrifice

Chapter 5: Poisonous Fungi and Mycotoxins

Poisonous Fungi


Summary of Ancient Storage Practices

Experiments Duplicating Ancient Storage Practices or Using Ancient Crops
Ancient Historical Events Speculatively Attributed to Mycotoxins
Wheezing and Sneezing: Molded Feed, Hay, and Silage

Chapter 6: Fungi Used for Medicinal Purposes and Other Technologies

Panaceas and Pyrotechnics
Lichens as Remedies and Fabric Dyes

Chapter 7: Plant-Pathogenic Fungi

Ancient Agriculture, Landraces of Crop Plants, and Fungal Plant Pathogens
The Ancient Near East
Greco-Roman Antiquity
Europe North of the Mediterranean
Spread of Plant Pathogens via Transport of Seeds

Chapter 8: Fungi as Agents of Rot on Wood and Fabric

Tsara'at = Mold
Conservation of Artifacts

Chapter 9: Human and Animal Pathogens

Ringworm and Other Nasties

Fungi and Healing Rituals

Chapter 10: Environmental and Ecological Roles of Fungi

Coprophilous Fungi and Archaeobotany

What Killed the Elms?

Chapter 11: Ancient Fungi Preserved in Glacial Ice or Permafrost

Ice and Permafrost

The Iceman

Caveats to the Study of Ancient Fungal DNA

Chapter 12: Ancient Images of Fungi

Phalli and the Dancing Myco-Shamans
Greco-Roman Images
Agarics and Huns

Chapter 13: Fungi in Ancient European Folklore

Eastern European Pagans
Western Europe
The Celts and Fairies
The Anglo-Saxon Charms
Etruscan Echoes

Chapter 14: Ideas of the Ancients on Fungal Biology

Biology without a Microscope

Chapter 15: Some Additional Hypotheses Regarding the Impact of Fungi in Ancient Times

Plant Pathogens and the History of Agriculture
Fermented Beverages and Social Structure
Psychoactive Fungi and the Evolution of Consciousness
Manna from Heaven

Chapter 16: Conclusions

Literature Cited


Customer Reviews


Frank Dugan, the author, is a Research Plant Pathologist with the USDA-ARS Western Regional Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Station at Washington State University. He was formerly a Collection Scientist for Mycology and Botany at American Type Culture Collections, and spent his career managing and researching diverse collections of fungal and higher plant germplasm.
By: Frank Matthews Dugan
152 pages, 13 b/w figs
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