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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"Every 60-80 years they would sacrifice whole cities by intentionally burning thousands of their houses."

Mysterious Neolithic People Made Optical Art

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Sept. 22, 2008 — An egalitarian Neolithic Eden filled with unique, geometric art flourished some 7,000 years ago in Eastern Europe, according to hundreds of artifacts on display at the Vatican.

Running until the end of October at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in the Vatican, the exhibition, “Cucuteni-Trypillia: A Great Civilization of Old Europe,” introduces a mysterious Neolithic people who are now believed to have forged Europe’s first civilization.

Little is known about these people — even their name is wrapped in mystery.

Archaeologists have named them “Cucuteni-Trypillians” after the villages of Cucuteni, near Lasi, Romania and Trypillia, near Kiev, Ukraine, where the first discoveries of this ancient civilization were made more than 100 years ago.

The excavated treasures — fired clay statuettes and op art-like pottery dating from 5000 to 3000 B.C. — immediately posed a riddle to archaeologists.

“We do not know the meaning of those painted symbols, and what is the significance of those zoomorphic and anthropomorphic statuettes. Everything seems to be wrapped in mystery.

“Most of all, we do not know how these people treated their dead. Despite recent extensive excavations, no cemetery has ever been found,” Lacramioara Stratulat, director of the Moldova National Museum Complex of Iasi, told reporters at a news conference recently at the Vatican.

Before their culture mysteriously faded, the Cucuteni-Trypillians had organized into large settlements. Predating the Sumerians and Egyptian settlements, these were basically proto-cities with buildings often arranged in concentric circles.

They extended over 350,000 square kilometers (135,000 square miles) in what is now Romania, Ukraine and Moldova.

The Neolithic buildings often featured walls and ceilings decorated with drawings painted in black and red. Inside, the houses were filled with pottery and statuettes whose quasi-modern design has become the Cucuteni-Trypillians’s most identifiable trademark.

This unique artistic production, dominated by repeating lines, circles and spirals, amazingly echoes modern op art, also known as optical art, which is a genre of visual that makes use of geometric shapes and optical illusions. The unusual art offers the best glimpse into this mysterious civilization.

None of the enigmatic statuettes seem fearsome or fearful. The rare male statuettes have faces often covered by masks, while the abundant female statuettes are gracious and mask-free, with tattooed bodies and long feet.

There are no chained slaves or sacrificial figures — a sign of a rather egalitarian culture, according to historians.

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