Ancient Bolivian ritual kit contains traces of hallucinogens

This is a view of the Cueva del Chileno excavation site.

Enlarge / This is a view
of the Cueva del Chileno excavation site. (credit: José Capriles, Penn
State
)

In a rock shelter in the highlands of southwest Bolivia amid the
rubble of an area once set aside for funerary rituals,
archaeologists found a leather-wrapped bundle of tools for
preparing and inhaling snuff. They radiocarbon-dated the bundle to
between 905 and 1170 CE, which is when the Tiwanaku Empire (a
predecessor of the Inca and rival of the nearby Wari) was crumbling
into smaller regional states. Chemical analysis reveals that the
bundle once contained a small assortment of psychoactive plants,
including coca leaves and ayahuasca.

Unwrapping a shaman’s bundle

Archaeologists Melanie Miller, José Capriles, and their
colleagues used mass spectrometry to identify traces of cocaine,
along with four other compounds, inside a hide pouch sewn from the
skins of three fox snouts.

One compound, harmine, points to a plant called ayahuasca.
Amazonian people brew it into a mind-altering tea, which also has
traditional medicinal uses. Mixed with a plant called chacruna, the
brew can produce vivid hallucinations. Small amounts of a compound
called DMT could come from chacruna or from the seeds of a tree
called vilca (whose name means “sacred” in the Quechua language
of Peru). So it’s hard to say whether this was a ritual blend or
a medicinal one. There’s not much archaeological evidence for
ayahuasca, aside from traces of harmine in the hair of two Tiwanaku
mummies from northern Chile who date from between 400 and 900 CE.
So anthropologists still don’t agree on how long ago people
started using it.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Ancient Bolivian ritual kit contains traces of hallucinogens