1,000 Year Old Shaman Drug Pouch Found

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Archaeologists from Penn State have uncovered a 1,000 year old drug pouch made from fox snouts in a cave in Bolivia. The pouch contained various utensils for processing psychoactive drugs.

Ancient Shamanic Pouch Found – Image Credit Jose Capriles Penn State

The pouch was found in a dry rock area of the Sora River valley in southwestern Bolivia. It contained two snuffing boxes for pulverizing plants into powders for smoking. It also included a pipe for smoking the powders.

Cueva del Chileno – Image Credit Jose Capriles Penn State

The pouch was composed of three fox snouts and was able to be carbon dated to 1,000 years ago. This would put it in the mysterious pre-Incan culture known as the Tiwanaku civilization.

The pouch was made from three fox snouts – Image Credit Jose Capriles Penn State

They analyzed the snuff boxes for chemical analysis and found they contained cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine), harmine, bufotenin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and possibly psilocin (a compound found in some mushrooms) — from at least three different plant species (likely Erythroxylum coca, a species of Anadenanthera and Banistesteriopsis caani).

According to the team:

We already knew that psychotropics were important in the spiritual and religious activities of the societies of the south-central Andes, but we did not know that these people were using so many different compounds and possibly combining them together. This is the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America.

Jose Capriles, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Penn State

The presence of the constituents of Ayahuasca are the most significant finding since dating the ancient shamanic practice has been the subject of debate.

According to Capriles:

Given the presence of harmine and DMT together in the pouch we found, it is likely that this shaman ingested these simultaneously to achieve a hallucinogenic state, either through a beverage, such as ayahuasca, or through a composite snuff that contained these plants in a single mixture. This finding suggests that ayahuasca may have been used up to 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologists tend to agree that, at some point in ancient history, a shamanic cult swept through South America under the symbol of a deity, sometimes known as the Staff God, who is usually portrayed holding the principle ingredients of ayahuasca

Viracocha holding symbols of the ingredients of ayahuasca.

Source: Berkeley Press

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