(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the University of Warsaw in Poland have solved the mystery of the remains of an ancient mummy by examining just one hair from her head!
Thousands of years ago, a child in Peru fell victim to an ancient ritual. His head was chopped off and turned into a trophy of sorts.
A new analysis of a single hair from a mummy shows that the child consumed a cactus containing psychoactive substances right before the execution.
The surviving head of a child was one of 22 human remains associated with the ancient Nazca society.
These people lived in the pre-Hispanic era (3500 BC – 476 AD) and were buried near the southern coast of Peru, where they were found as part of an archaeological program that began as early as 1982.
Although scientists are not sure of the sex of the victim and the age of the child at the time of death, they were able to find out that he ate the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi).
It is a thorny plant known for its “strong hallucinogenic properties” and used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas in traditional medicine and during rituals.
According to the authors of the work, this is the first evidence that some of the victims, from which the trophy heads were made, were given psychotropic substances before death.
Scientists have learned the secret of the mummy by examining one hair
For the study, experts collected individual hair samples from four trophy heads, three of which belonged to adults, and from 18 mummies, both adults and children.
Toxicological examination showed that many of the deceased had consumed some kind of psychoactive or stimulant plant before their death.
Among them were coca leaves, known as the source of the psychoactive substance cocaine, and the San Pedro cactus, which contains mescaline, a psychedelic drug.
The researchers also found traces of Banisteriopsis caapi, the main compound in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink that contains harmine and harmaline (two compounds used in modern antidepressants).
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