Traces of hallucinogens found in Andean mummy hair

Analysis of the chemical composition of hairs from an adult Andean male and a one-year-old baby, both dating between 800 and 1200 A.D., revealed the presence of the hallucinogenic alkaloid harmine. Buried with an elaborate snuffing kit, shown here, the adult male appeared to have suffered sniffing lesions near the nose.

Traces of hallucinogens found in mummy hair
Evidence shows ancient Andeans actually consumed mind-altering drugs

By Rossella Lorenzi – Oct. 29, 2008 – Discovery

Andean mummy hair has provided the first direct archaeological evidence of the consumption of hallucinogens in pre-Hispanic Andean populations, according to recent gas chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis.

Indirect evidence for psychoactive drug use in South America’s ancient populations abound, ranging from the discovery of drug equipment to the identification of hallucinogenic herb residuals in snuffing kits.

However, there wasn’t direct evidence that the ancient Andean people actually consumed mind-altering drugs.

To find a direct link, chemical archaeologist Juan Pablo Ogalde and colleagues at the University of Tarapac√° in Arica, Chile, analyzed 32 mummies from the Azapa Valley in northern Chile.

Naturally mummified in the Acatama desert, the bodies belonged to the Tiwanaku, the ancestors of the Incas.

The little known Tiwanaku established a civilization around 1200 B.C. that prevailed for almost three millennia, becoming one of history’s longest-running empires.

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