You are here
Home > News > Nazca Human Sacrifice Victim Used Psychedelics Before Death

Nazca Human Sacrifice Victim Used Psychedelics Before Death

A Nazca ritual site was discovered in Peru. It revealed that the child who had been executed as part of religious ceremonies more than 1,000 years ago, consumed mescaline before being killed. Researchers made this discovery after analysing one hair on the head of a child who’d been cut at the neck to create a ritual trophy.

One of the 22 remains found in Peru’s ancient Nazca civilization, this preserved head belonged to one of 22 known human remains. The Nazca Civilization inhabited south Peru around 100 B.C. Between 100 B.C. and 800 A.D. It included remains from 18 mummies as well as four trophy heads (from a child, three adults) that were found in Peru’s southern coast more than 1000 years ago. These were part of the Nazca Project, an archaeological program.

An analysis of one hair on the head of the child revealed that the victim had consumed San Pedro Cactus (another name for San Pedro).Echinopsis pachanoi() in a time before death or as part of religious ceremonies. San Pedro cactus, which contains mescaline (a natural psychedelic drug), has been known to be used in South American Indian cultures for both religious and medical purposes.

“The trophy head is the first case of the consumption of San Pedro by an individual living on the southern Peruvian coast,” study lead author Dagmara Socha, a doctoral candidate in the Center for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland, told Live Science. “It’s also the first evidence that some of the victims who were made into trophy heads were given stimulants before they died.”

Additional analysis of hair samples from other remains revealed that several of them had used stimulants or psychedelics before their deaths. The toxicological analysis revealed that the scientists also found traces of San Pedro cactus. Banisteriopsis caapiAyahuasca contains ayahuasca (the main ingredient in the psychedelic beverage). It is also used as a component in some South American Indigenous cultures’ ritual ceremonies. Many had also ingested coca leaf, which is the main source of stimulant cocaine.

“It was quite interesting to see how many people had access to [these plants],” Socha said. “We also wanted to discover the route of the trade of some of these ancient plants. For instance, the coca leaves were not cultivated on Peru’s southern coast, so they had to be brought there from either northern Peru or the Amazonian region.”

Nazca Site: Archaeological Artifacts

The researchers found other grave items, including pottery pots, weaving tools, and ceramic pots. Also, a bag that was used to hold coca leaves (known as a Chuspa) were discovered by them. Researchers determined that drug abuse by individuals at the site was between 100 B.C. The dates ranged between 100 B.C. and A.D. 450. 

“We can see this transition of the plants was beginning early and we can actually trace the trade network,” Socha said. “Our research shows that these plants were extremely important to different cultures for medical or visionary effect. Especially since there’s no [written record] from this time period, so what we know about Nazca and other nearby cultures is from archaeological investigations.”

Rainer Bussmann is a Professor at the Institute of Botany at Ilia State University, Tbilisi (Georgia) and Head of Botany at State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, Germany. He published in 2006 a study that looked at indigenous populations’ use of medicinal plants in Northern Peru. He also studied the routes of trade for various cultivated plants.

“There was always a little trade going on in this region, with plants being traded from the Amazon up and down the [Peruvian] coast,” said Bussmann, who was not involved in the new study. “These plants were traditionally used for ceremonial or medicinal purposes, and [were]Sometimes, they are combined. I’ve never seen any reports of recreational use. For these cultures, there was always a specific purpose.”

Socha said that while evidence supports the use of the plants for ritual and medicinal purposes, Socha pointed out that they were not used in any way by the Nazca people.

“We actually don’t know how often these [plants] were being used,” she said. “In the case of San Pedro, it’s not well preserved in an archaeological context, and in the case of the coca leaves and Banisteriopsis caapi, they were never found to be growing in this region during that time period.”

In December 2022, The Associated Press will publish the findings of this study. Journal of Archeological Science.