A tube for inhaling, a flat surface for rolling and a multi-colored headband could be your favorite pipe, album cover and hippie outfit from the 60’s. In the south-central Andes near Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, it’s evidence of a culture that partook of hallucinogenic substances way back in 500 AD.
The current edition of the journal Antiquity describes a leather bag containing a collection of psychedelic drug paraphernalia discovered recently that was used by the people of Tiwanaku, a pre-Columbian city-state that existed from 300AD to 1000 AD. The artifacts include so-called “snuffing tablets,” a wooden snuffing tube, spatulas, a cloth headband, spatulas and more, indicating the residents were sophisticated and prolific users of psychedelic substances, according to Juan Albarracin-Jordan of the Fundación Bartolomé de Las Casas, author of the study.
Snuffing tablets in the Andes were primarily used by ritual specialists, such as shamans. Psychotropic substances, once extracted from plants, were spread and mixed on the tablets. Inhalation tubes were then used to introduce the substances through the nose into the system.
Also found at the Cueva del Chileno site were kerus – cups used for drinking an alcoholic beverage made from fermented corn known as chicha. If you take a closer look at some of the well-known monoliths from that era, such as the Bennett monolith, it appears the figure is holding a keru in one hand and a snuffing tablet in the other. Stoned stones!
As with many ancient psychedelic-using cultures, the Tiwanaku took them primarily for spiritual purposes, says Albarracin-Jordan. Those imbibing were seen as “mediators between the natural and the supernatural.”
They were also conflict brokers between the living and the dead.
Unfortunately, the snuffing and drinking wasn’t all mellow and mind-expanding. The researchers also found evidence of both animal and human sacrifices.
Maybe their headbands were too tight.