Historical Maya Drank Tobacco in Therapeutic Rituals, Discovery Suggests

Archaeologists have discovered proof to recommend that the traditional Maya consumed tobacco as a drink, presumably for ritual and therapeutic functions.

For a examine revealed within the journal Antiquity, a workforce of researchers analyzed chemical residues from cylindrical ceramic vases discovered within the archaeological zone of Cotzumalhuapa, an historic metropolis on the coast of Guatemala.

This examine revealed bodily proof of tobacco use on the web site through the Late Basic Interval (A.D. 650-950) of Mesoamerican historical past. Particularly, researchers detected traces of nicotine within the residues, indicating that the vessels contained tobacco infusions or different liquid preparations.

The outcomes recommend an historic ritual observe involving tobacco for which no earlier bodily proof has been present in Mesoamerica—the historic and cultural area that extends throughout most of Central America and southern elements of North America.

The traditional Mesoamerican ceramic vessels have been discovered on the web site of the traditional Mayan metropolis of Cotzumalhuapa in Guatemala. Researchers discovered traces of nicotine on three of the vessels, suggesting tobacco use.


The widespread significance of tobacco in Mesoamerica is documented in historic sources and by different proof, comparable to paintings depicting the leaves of the plant. However restoration of the natural stays of tobacco in archaeological contexts is uncommon, notably from precolonial instances.

“We knew that tobacco was a vital substance employed for a wide range of ritual and therapeutic functions in historic Mesoamerica and throughout the New World,” examine co-author Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos of Yale College stated in a press launch. “Nonetheless, archaeological proof is scarce as a result of the stays of tobacco not often protect properly.”

Cotzumalhuapa was one of many largest and most necessary Mayan cities in Mesoamerica through the Late Basic Interval. However little is thought concerning the ritual practices that happened on the web site.

The Mayan civilization dominated what’s now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and the western areas of El Salvador and Honduras for greater than 3,000 years till the period of Spanish colonization.

The traditional Maya have been notable for his or her hanging structure and artwork; superior calendar, arithmetic and astronomical system; and for creating the one absolutely developed writing system in pre-Hispanic America.

Within the newest examine, the researchers needed to know extra concerning the rituals that after happened in Cotzumalhuapa, which is close to the trendy city of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa. To do that, the researchers analyzed chemical residues from seven ceramic vessels found close to the acropolis of El Baúl.

“We hoped that evaluation of residues inside these well-preserved vessels would reveal particulars about the usage of crops in ritual actions,” Chinchilla Mazariegos stated.

These vessels examined unfavorable for traces of cacao, chili peppers and achiote—an orange-red meals coloring and condiment. However three of the vessels yielded constructive outcomes for traces of nicotine. The vessels have been of a form usually used to comprise liquids, and consequently, the invention of tobacco residue stunned the researchers.

The discover means that the tobacco might have been consumed, on this case, as some type of liquid infusion relatively than smoked. Earlier proof has discovered proof of tobacco being smoked as a dried leaf or sniffed in powder type in Mesoamerica.

Whereas the widespread use of tobacco for each ritual and medicinal functions—the 2 have been nearly actually linked—is properly documented from early colonial to trendy instances in Mesoamerica, the examine gives bodily proof that such practices happened a number of centuries earlier.

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