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J Ochatoma Paravicino / ME Biver et al., 2022

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Placing the beer served at their feasts with hallucinogens may have helped an ancient Peruvian people known as Wari forming political alliances and expanding their empire according to a new paper Published in Antiquity magazine. Recent excavations at a remote Wari outpost called Quilacapampa have unearthed seeds from the Wilca tree that could be used to produce a powerful hallucinogenic drug. The authors think Wari dealt a major final blow before the site was abandoned.

“To my knowledge, the Wari is the first discovery of wilka at the site, where we can get a glimpse of its use,” co-author Matthew Beavers, an archaeologist at Dickinson College, said. told Gizmodo, “The seeds or remains of Vilka have been found in earlier burial tombs, but we can only assume how it was used. These findings point to a more nuanced understanding of Wari feasting and politics and the practices that Vilka was involved in.” How was it framed?


Wari Empire Lasted from about 500 CE to 1100 CE in the central highlands of Peru. There is some debate among scholars as to whether the network of roadways connecting the various provincial cities constituted a true empire as opposed to a loose economic network. But Wari’s complex, distinctive architectural constructions and the 2013 discovery of a royal royal tomb lend credence to the status of the kingdom of Wari. The culture began to decline around 800 CE, largely due to drought. Many central buildings were blocked off, people thought they might come back if it rained, and there is archaeological evidence of possible wars and raids in the last days of the Empire as local infrastructure collapsed and supply chains failed. .

Prior to this, however, Wari enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity, with a capital city (northeast of present-day Ayacucho in Peru), which served as the center of the Wari civilization. The use of hallucinogens, especially substances derived from the seeds of the Vilka tree, was common in the region during the so-called Middle Horizon period, when the Wari kingdom flourished.

Vilca seed recovered from component II in Quilacapampa (scale in cm).
M. Beaver
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Wilka Usually grows in the dry tropical forests of the region. The trees produce long pods filled with slender seeds. The seeds, bark, and other parts of the tree all contain DMT, a well-known psychedelic substance that is also found in ayahuasca brew of Amazonian tribes. However, the primary active ingredient is bufotenin, the effect of which subsides quickly if the drug is taken orally. So it is commonly smoked, ingested as snuff, or used as an enema by those seeking the full hallucinogenic effect. A 4,000-year-old pipe adorned with bufotenin remains and related material was found in an Incan cave in Argentina in 1999—the oldest archaeological evidence ever to use vilca in South America.

There is also evidence from historical accounts that sometimes juice or tea obtained from the seeds of Vilca was added to it. girl, a fermented drink made from maize or the fruit of the mole tree, native to Peru. This is one way of taking wilca orally while achieving a mild, sustained psychedelic effect, as beta-carboline produced during the fermentation of chicha suppresses stomach enzymes by inactivating the active compounds that combat high. “The mass consumption of Wilca-infused beverages is also documented ethnographically, with more sustained experiences as opposed to the massive hallucinogenic rush produced when consumed in other ways,” the authors wrote.

For example, the people of the neighboring state of Tiwanaku were known to mix such hallucinations with alcohol, especially corn beer. There are monoliths holding a drinking cup in one hand and a tray of snuff in the other, and smoking or lamenting was part of a long-standing ritual tradition to promote personal spiritual journeys.

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