Archaeologists have found a 1,000-year old drug bundle, which contains traces of cocaine in a Bolivian cave.
According to a press release published by Penn State University, the international team of anthropologists found the bundle in the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter in southwestern Bolivia, while looking for ancient occupations.
The leather bag contained "two snuffing tablets used to pulverize psychotropic plants into snuff; a snuffing tube for smoking hallucinogenic plants; and a pouch constructed of three fox snouts."
The bundle also contained ayahuasca and two decorated and carved wooden snuffing tablets that, according to researchers, "would have been used as a platform on which to pulverize psychotropic plants."
After obtaining a tiny scraping from the inner-lining of the fox-snout pouch, scientific analysis revealed the presence of several psychoactive compounds, including: cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), bufotenin and harmine; modern ayahuasca is prepared using the primary ingredients of harmine and DMT.
“This is the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America,” explains Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology at Penn State.
"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."
According to Melanie Miller, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand, the “presence of these compounds indicates the owner of this kit had access to at least three plants with psychoactive compounds, but potentially even four or five."
She continued: "None of the psychoactive compounds we found come from plants that grow in this area of the Andes, indicating either the presence of elaborate exchange networks or the movement of this individual across diverse environments to procure these special plants."
"This discovery reminds us that people in the past had extensive knowledge of these powerful plants and their potential uses, and they sought them out for their medicinal and psychoactive properties."
Wonder if we'll see the launch of a new TV series called Antiques Cokeshow...
[Via: Penn State]
James Ball is Mixmag's Weekend Editor. Follow him on Twitter
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