Before being ritually sacrificed, this Nazca child was drugged with psychedelics : ScienceAlert

Before being ritually sacrificed, this Nazca child was drugged with psychedelics : ScienceAlert

Thousands of years ago, a child in Peru was sacrificed as part of an ancient ritual, his head was cut from the throat and became a kind of trophy. A new analysis of a single hair removed from the mummy’s skull reveals that the child consumed a psychoactive cactus before the execution, as part of the ceremony.

The child’s preserved head was one of 22 human remains associated with the ancient Nazca society examined in a new study. All of these individuals lived during the pre-Hispanic era (3500 BC to AD 476) and were buried near the southern coast of Peru, where they were excavated during the Nazca Project, a long-term archaeological program that began in 1982.

While scientists are unsure of the child victim’s gender and age at the time of death, they reported that the child had ingested San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi), a prickly pear plant taken for its “powerful hallucinogenic properties” and used by Native American cultures in traditional medicines and during rituals.

“The trophy head is the first instance of San Pedro being consumed by a person living on the southern coast of Peru,” lead study author Dagmara Socha, a PhD candidate at the Center for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland, told Live. Science.

“It is also the first evidence that some of the victims who became trophy heads were given stimulants before they died.”

For the study, Socha and her team collected individual hair samples from four trophy heads, three of which belonged to adults, and from 18 mummies both adults and children. Toxicology tests revealed that many of the dead had consumed some type of psychoactive or stimulant plant before their deaths.

These ingested species included coca leaves, known as a source of the psychoactive substance cocaine, as well as the San Pedro cactus, which contains mescaline, a psychedelic drug.

Investigators also found traces of it Banisteriopsis caapi, the main compound in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink containing harmine and harmaline (two compounds used in modern antidepressants).

Related: 76 child sacrifice victims with their hearts ripped out were found in the excavation in Peru

“It was very interesting to see how many people had access [these plants]Socha said.

“We also wanted to discover the trade route of some of these ancient plants. For example, coca leaves were not grown on the southern coast of Peru, so they had to be brought there from either northern Peru or the Amazon region.”

Drug use dates back to 100 BC. to AD 450, the researchers found.

“We can see that this transition of factories started early and we can really trace the trade network,” Socha said.

“Our research shows that these plants were extremely important in different cultures for medicinal or visionary effect. Especially since there isn’t one [written record] from this time period, so what we know about Nazca and other nearby civilizations is from archaeological investigations”.

Sixteen years before this study, Rainer Bussmann, a professor in the Department of Ethnobiology at the Institute of Botany at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and head of botany at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, published a study in Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine examination of the use of medicinal plants by indigenous communities in northern Peru.

Like Sotsa, he examined the trade routes of different cultivated plants in this part of the world.

“There has always been a little trade in this area, with plants being traded from up and down the Amazon [Peruvian] coast,” Bassman, who was not involved in the new study, told Live Science.

“These plants were traditionally used for ritual or medicinal purposes and [were] sometimes in combination. I have never seen any reports of recreational use. For these cultures there was always a specific purpose.’

But while evidence suggests these plants were consumed medicinally and for ceremonies, scientists still have questions about how widespread consumption was in the Nazca culture, Socha said.

“We don’t actually know how often they happen [plants] were used,” he said. “In the case of San Pedro, it is not well preserved in an archaeological context, and in the case of coca leaves and Banisteriopsis caapiwere never found growing in that area during that time period.”

In addition to human remains, Socha and her team also found a variety of burials at the burial sites, including textiles, ceramic vessels, weaving tools and a chuspa – a type of bag used to carry coca leaves.

The findings will be published in the December 2022 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

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