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Ancient hallucinogens found in 1,000-year-old shamanic pouch

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

The ritual container, made of three fox snouts, is one of the earliest known pouches for ayahuasca preparation and use of psychedelic substances.

Inside a small cave anthropologists found a ritual bundle thought to have been left as part of a human burial. The bundle – bound in a leather bag – contained, among other things, two snuffing tablets (used to pulverise psychotropic plants into snuff), a snuffing tube, for smoking hallucinogenic plants, and a pouch constructed of three fox snouts.

DMT, 5-MEO DMT, Harmine, Cocaine, and more.

The remains of a fox-snout pouch believed to have been owned by a South American shaman, or just an avid psychonaut. The thousand years old bag has revealed traces of powerful hallucinogens. Radiocarbon dating revealed the age of the outer leather bag to be from between 900 to 1170AD. The team used a scalpel to obtain a tiny scraping from the interior of the fox-snout pouch and analysed the material.

They found multiple psychoactive compounds – cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine), harmine, bufotenin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and possibly psilocin (a compound found in some mushrooms) – which came from at least three different plant species.

The blend of drugs is very close to those used in the production of ayahuasca – a psychoactive preparation which is still taken – usually in the form of a drink – in many areas of the Amazon basin.

The ancient find indicates people were not only using single plants known to produce hallucinations, but were blending various plants like modern psychedelic enthusiasts. Similar to the way modern psychedelic users make Changa.

“We already knew that psychotropics were important in the spiritual and religious activities of the societies of the south-central Andes, but we did not know that these people were using so many different compounds and possibly combining them together,” said Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology at Penn State University. “This is the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America.”

“Shamans were ritual specialists who had knowledge of plants and how to use them as mechanisms to engage with supernatural beings, including venerated ancestors who were thought to exist in other realms,” he said.

“None of the psychoactive compounds we found come from plants that grow in this area of the Andes, indicating either the presence of elaborate exchange networks or the movement of this individual across diverse environments to procure these special plants. This discovery reminds us that people in the past had extensive knowledge of these powerful plants and their potential uses, and they sought them out for their medicinal and psychoactive properties.”

It has also been suggested the find answers questions about when ayahuasca was first begun to be taken as a drink.

Dr Capriles said: “Some scholars believe that ayahuasca has relatively recent origins, while others argue that it may have been used for centuries, or even millennia.

“Given the presence of harmine and DMT together in the pouch we found, it is likely that this shaman ingested these simultaneously to achieve a hallucinogenic state, either through a beverage, such as ayahuasca, or through a composite snuff that contained these plants in a single mixture. This finding suggests that ayahuasca may have been used up to 1,000 years ago.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


On a personal note

DMT has been used for centuries across the globe. From the Acacia trees in Egypt to the jungles of the Amazon. And by making these products we want to show our respect to this ancient tradition. This is an ancient technology that deserves respect.

We realise the potential of psychedelics to collectively and individually generate major positive growth, as they show us the limitless of life. We urged to give more respect to this ancient technology. 

This endeavour the outcome of that. Let's raise the standard of psychedelic use.

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