Evidence of Ayahuasca, Other Hallucinogens Detected in Pre-Columbian ‘Drug Bag’

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A 1,000-year-old sack filled with psychoactive drugs, unearthed in Bolivia, suggests that Pre-Columbian societies may have used combinations of several hallucinogens in their rituals.

In the leather bag, scientists found a bundle of dried plant stems and ritual items that probably belonged to a shaman, including decorated tablets and other tools for preparing and inhaling psychoactive drugs.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that the sack and its contents date between A.D. 905 and 1170, researchers wrote in a new study. Chemical analysis revealed traces of compounds found in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic potion made from plants found in the Amazon basin, and evidence of several other psychotropic substances. The find suggests that drugs producing different effects may have been combined during some rituals, according to the study. [Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens]

Native plant species with psychedelic qualities have been used in communities across South America for thousands of years. These drugs helped users to establish connections with ancestors and with supernatural forces that were often embodied by animals, such as foxes, jaguars, raptors and other predators, study co-author José Capriles, an assistant professor of anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University, told Live Science.

Shamans’ tools
Archaeologists unearthed the bag at a rock shelter that was occupied by humans beginning four thousand years ago, in southwestern Bolivia’s Lípez Altiplano. The sack measured 11 inches (28 centimeters) long and

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