WSU researchers recognize contents of ancient Maya drug containers


IMAGE: Frontal and lateral view of a Muna-type (ADVERTISEMENT 750-900) paneled flask with unique serrated-edge design.
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Credit: WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. – Researchers have actually recognized the existence of a non-tobacco plant in ancient Maya drug containers for the very first time.

The Washington State University scientists spotted Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) in residues drawn from 14 mini Maya ceramic vessels.

Initially buried more than 1,000 years back on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, the vessels likewise consist of chemical traces present in 2 kinds of dried and treated tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica. The research study group, led by sociology postdoc Mario Zimmermann, believes the Mexican marigold was blended with the tobacco to make smoking cigarettes more satisfying.

The discovery of the vessels’ contents paints a clearer image of ancient Maya substance abuse practices. The research study, which was released today in Scientific Reports, likewise leads the way for future research studies examining other kinds of psychedelic and non-psychoactive plants that were smoked, chewed, or snuffed amongst the Maya and other pre-Colombian societies.

” While it has actually been developed that tobacco was typically utilized throughout the Americas prior to and after contact, proof of other plants utilized for medical or spiritual functions has actually stayed mainly uncharted,” Zimmermann stated. “The analysis approaches established in cooperation in between the Department of Sociology and the Institute of Biological Chemistry provide us the capability to examine substance abuse in the ancient world like never ever in the past.”

Zimmermann and associates’ work was enabled by NSF-funded research study which resulted in a brand-new metabolomics-based analysis approach that can discover countless plant substances or metabolites in residue gathered from containers, pipelines, bowls and other historical artifacts. The substances can then be utilized to recognize which plants were taken in.

Formerly, the recognition of ancient plant residues depended on the detection of a minimal variety of biomarkers, such as nicotine, anabasine, cotinine and caffeine.

” The concern with this is that while the existence of a biomarker like nicotine reveals tobacco was smoked, it does not inform you what else was taken in or kept in the artifact,” stated David Gang, a teacher in WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and a co-author of the research study. “Our technique not just informs you, yes, you discovered the plant you have an interest in, however it likewise can inform you what else was being taken in.”

Zimmermann assisted discover 2 of the ritualistic vessels that were utilized for the analysis in the spring of 2012. At the time, he was dealing with a dig directed by the National Institute of Sociology and History of Mexico on the borders of Mérida where a specialist had exposed proof of a Maya archeological website while clearing lands for a brand-new real estate complex.

Zimmermann and a group of archeologists utilized GPS devices to divide the location into a checkerboard-like grid. They then hacked their method through thick jungle looking for little mounds and other indications of ancient structures where the remains of crucial individuals such as shamans are in some cases discovered.

” When you discover something truly fascinating like an undamaged container it provides you a sense of delight,” Zimmermann stated. “Typically, you are fortunate if you discover a jade bead. There are actually lots of pottery sherds however total vessels are limited and use a great deal of fascinating research study capacity.”

Zimmermann stated the WSU research study group is presently in settlements with numerous organizations in Mexico to get access to more ancient containers from the area that they can examine for plant residues. Another job they are presently pursuing is taking a look at natural residues protected in the oral plaque of ancient human remains.

” We are broadening frontiers in historical science so that we can much better examine the deep time relationships individuals have actually had with a vast array of psychedelic plants, which were (and continue to be) taken in by people all over the world,” stated Shannon Tushingham, a teacher of Sociology at WSU and a co-author of the research study. “There are lots of innovative methods which individuals handle, utilize, control and prepare native plants and plant mixes, and archaeologists are just starting to scratch the surface area of how ancient these practices were.” .


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