Civilizations of pre-Columbian America created a stable network of drug trafficking even before our era

(ORDO NEWS) — About two thousand years ago, in the south of modern Peru, a child was sacrificed. Now scientists have found out that before his death he was fed a cactus containing psychoactive substances. And this is far from the only case.

A paper was published in the Journal of Archeological Science , the authors of which examined the remains of 22 people associated with the Nazca culture.

This is a pre-Columbian civilization that existed in the south of modern Peru, in the valleys and on the plateau of the same name. Its representatives are credited with creating the Nazca geoglyphs , but there is still no agreement on this issue in the scientific community.

We have already written that pre-Columbian civilizations were often prone to bloody rituals – and this is not the propaganda of the conquistadors at all, but the data of archaeologists.

Earlier, the same group of scientists published a work in which they spoke about some of the features of sacrifices – however, not representatives of the Nazca, but the Incas. Before killing two children, the Incas gave them coca and ayahuasca. In other words, drugs.

Civilizations of pre Columbian America created a stable network of drug trafficking even before our era 2
Mummified bodies were kept in this form

In a new study, the authors present the results of an analysis of a hair from the head of a child sacrificed on the Nazca plateau.

It turned out that he was first fed a San Pedro cactus ( Echinopsis pachanoi ), after which his head was cut off. The body was buried, and the head was mummified – this is the so-called trophy head, an amulet.

The San Pedro cactus contains mescaline, a powerful hallucinogen. Scientists believe that the indigenous civilizations of the Americas used this thorny plant in traditional medicines and during rituals.

Evidence that the child was given a cactus to chew on before being killed is the first time that San Pedro was consumed by a person living on the southern coast of Peru.

And this is the first evidence that some of the victims, from which the trophy heads were made, were given stimulants before death.

In total, during the study, scientists collected individual hair samples from four trophy heads, three of which belonged to adults, as well as from 18 mummies of adults and children.

Toxicological examinations showed that many of the deceased had consumed some type of psychoactive or stimulant plant before their death.

Plants used included coca leaves, the San Pedro cactus, and a creeper called the spirit vine , or Banisteriopsis caapi in Latin.

The latter is the main component of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink containing harmine and harmaline (two compounds used in modern antidepressants).

Only the spirit vine does not grow in the south of Peru, and it is unlikely that it grew there two thousand years ago.

In the same way, there was nowhere to get coca leaves in this region – they could only be brought from Northern Peru or from the Amazon.

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Trophy Head

In 2006, a study was published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine on the use of medicinal plants by the indigenous communities of Northern Peru.

Rainer Bussmann, the author of the work, studied the trade routes of various cultivated plants in this part of the world.

Dagmara Socha, lead author of the new study, overlaid Bussmann’s data with the evidence her team found of indigenous South American drug use.

It turned out that the routes coincide, but only partially. Drug use has been dated from 100 BC to 450 AD. And already at this earlier time, the map of drug trafficking was wider than the map of trade in non-narcotic plants.

That is, they began to use plants containing psychoactive substances quite early, and they also established trade a long time ago. They were transported from the Amazon up and down the coast of Peru.

“Our research shows that these plants were extremely important to various cultures for medicinal and ritual purposes.

There are no [written records] from this period, so everything we know about the Nazca and other nearby cultures comes from archaeological excavations,” the paper says.

It is not entirely clear how widespread the use of the San Pedro cactus was – traces of it are poorly preserved.

But it is clear that Pablo Escobar had spiritual predecessors long before the arrival of the Europeans.


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