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first_img Juan V. Albarracin-Jordan and José M. Capriles A pouch containing psychoactive compounds was stitched together from the snouts of three Andean foxes. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) By Michael PriceMay. 6, 2019 , 3:00 PM When José Capriles arrived in 2008 at the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter, nestled on the western slopes of Bolivia’s Andes, he didn’t know what he would find within. Sweeping aside layers of fresh and ancient llama dung, he found the remains of an ancient burial site: stone markers suggesting a body had once been interred there and a small leather bag cinched with a string. Inside was a collection of ancient drug paraphernalia—bone spatulas to crush the seeds of plants with psychoactive compounds, wooden tablets inlaid with gemstones to serve as a crushing surface, a wooden snuffing tube with a carved humanoid figure, and a small pouch stitched together from the snouts of three foxes.Now, more than a decade later, Capriles—an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University in State College—and colleagues have discovered that the 1000-year-old bag contains the most varied combination of psychoactive compounds found at a South American site, including cocaine and the primary ingredients in a hallucinogenic tea called ayahuasca. The contents suggest the users were well versed in the psychoactive properties of the substances, and also that they sourced their goods from well-established trade routes.“Whoever had this bag of amazing goodies … would have had to travel great distances to acquire those plants,” says Melanie Miller, lead author of a new study on the discovery and a bioarchaeologist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. “[Either that], or they had really extensive exchange networks.” Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Email In 2010, Miller joined the team to help chemically analyze the items, which had been nearly perfectly preserved in the arid conditions of the 4000-meter-high mountains. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the outer bag was made around 1000 C.E. Next, Miller carefully unwound the fox snout pouch and emptied its dust and debris onto a piece of aluminum foil. Using a technique frequently used in modern illicit drug testing called liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, she and her fellow researchers hunted for chemical signatures in the sample. They identified at least five psychoactive substances: cocaine, benzoylecgonine, bufotenine, harmine, and dimethyltryptamine.Harmine and dimethyltryptamine are the main ingredients in ayahuasca, used ceremonially for centuries by indigenous South Americans. Miller says their presence alongside the snuffing tube and tablet may mean that people inhaled these chemicals long before they were brewed into a beverage. Archaeologists find richest cache of ancient mind-altering drugs in South Americacenter_img Juan V. Albarracin-Jordan and José M. Capriles Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Nearly every culture on Earth has dabbled with consciousness- and perception-altering substances. Indigenous groups from Central and South America have used hallucinogens such as peyote and psilocybin mushrooms during rituals and religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Archaeologists have uncovered hundreds of items that provide a glimpse into these ancient practices, but few are as complete as the Bolivian find. A snuffing tube was used to inhale ground-up plant matter with psychoactive compounds. Researchers discovered the mind-altering kit in the Cueva del Chileno rock shelter, high in the Bolivian Andes. Juan V. Albarracin-Jordan and José M. Capriles The mixture’s origins also offer clues to the trade routes of the people who occupied the high plains. Several of the compounds come from the plant genus Anadenanthera—also known as vilca, cebil, or yopo—which grows widely through South America, but not in this region of the Andes. Similarly, the likely source of the harmine is a lowland Amazonian species.Miller says it’s possible that the mixture of compounds was unique to the region. The fact that at least two of the ingredients are known to be used in tandem in ayahuasca raises the possibility that this shaman was selecting plant combinations for specific mind-altering effects, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Maybe they were mixing multiple things together because they realized when they’re combined, they have a whole different set of experiences,” Miller says.When indigenous South Americans began to brew ayahuasca is still a major mystery, says Christine VanPool, an anthropologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia who wasn’t involved in the work. She’s intrigued by the idea they may first have discovered its properties by inhaling its key compounds. Shamans “say they’ve had [ayahuasca] for a very long time. So in some ways, I wasn’t surprised,” she says. But because archaeological evidence has been lacking, the new find is “exciting.”last_img read more