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The medicinal use of plants and the collection, dissemination, and application of traditional knowledge surrounding plants (ethnobotany) is an indigenous practice from the Americas well documented to this very day. A lot of these practices are yet to be fully understood, and one such recent example is that from three sacrificed Inca children found in the 1990s in southern Peru. These child mummies, frozen atop a volcano, were ritually sacrificed and intoxicated with stimulants, antidepressants, and maybe alcohol, to ease their passage into their afterlife, as per a new study published in The Journal of Archaeological Science .

Sacrificed Inca Children Were Prepared with Drugs for Death

These sacrificed Inca children, likely between the ages of 4 and 8, were ritually put to death almost 500 years ago. The latest study shows that these sacrificial children were fed a special soothing concoction in the days and weeks leading up to their death. When the time came for their death, they were “ready” to be ceremonially sacrificed and buried on a mountain in Peru but also elsewhere.

The study revealed that the hair and fingernails of these sacrificed Inca children contained evidence of high doses of the powerful hallucinogen ayahuasca, mixed with coca leaves (i.e., cocaine!). This was substantiated by traces of harmine and harmaline, which are chemical components of ayahuasca Banisteriopsis caapi vines, known colloquially as “caapi,” reports Science News .

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