Scientists identify psychoactive substance residues the Maya used alongside tobacco
MERIDA, Yucatan – For the first time, scientists have identified the presence of a non-tobacco plant in the ancient medicinal substance containers used by the ancient Maya.
Originally buried over a thousand years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula, the containers contain chemical traces of the flower known as Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lucida), as well as two types of cured and dried tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica.
Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) detected the Tagetes Lucida in residues taken from 14 miniature Mayan ceramic vessels.
That particular type of miniature ceramic vessel has occasionally been found during archaeological excavations at sites in the Yucatan.
The collection includes four different vessel forms and allows comparison of those that were previously part of museum exhibits with the recently excavated untreated containers.
The results include the detection of more than 9000 residual chemical characteristics and, for the first time, the presence of Tagetes lucida was traced, whose unique chemical characteristics were detected more frequently in archaeological samples than any other target substance, including the biomarker nicotine.
Scientists believe that the Tagetes Lucid was mixed with tobacco to make smoking more enjoyable.
The discovery of the contents of these vessels paints a clearer picture of the medicinal substance use and practices of the ancient Maya.
The research also paves the way for future studies investigating other types of psychoactive and non-psychoactive plants that were smoked, chewed, eaten, or inhaled by the Maya and other pre-Columbian societies.
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