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The presence of bufotenine suggests that the source of the powder was any of several DMT-rich plants in the genus (Torres, Repke, Chan, Mc Kenna, Llagostera, & Schultes, 1991; Torres 1996).
Many psychoactive alkaloids accumulate in hair and other body tissues.
As we noted above, such inhaled DMT is unaffected by the MAO-A in the gastric tract, and thus acts as a hallucinogen without the addition of the ayahuasca vine—and thus too without the gastrointestinal effects of the ayahuasca beta-carbolines. These Caribbean islands were colonized from South America about 400 AD.
The earliest known snuffing devices in South America come from central coastal Peru—whale-bone snuff trays and bird-bone tubes, dated to approximately 1200 BC (Torres, 1995, p. The use of snuffed DMT-containing plants later became—along with the use of the San Pedro cactus—a central feature of the Chavín culture, which occupied the northern Andean highlands of Peru, about halfway between the tropical forests and coastal plains, from approximately 900 to 200 BC. In a study headed by Scott Fitzpatrick of North Carolina State University (Fitzpatrick, Kaye, Feathers, Pavia, & Marsaglia, 2009; see also Braun, 2008), petrographic analysis of the mineral content of the bowls indicated that they were not made using local materials, and thus were probably not manufactured on Carriacou, but rather imported from elsewhere.
One archaeologist reported recovering 614 snuffing kits from a single excavation (Ogalde, Arriaza, & Soto, 2009).
Here we do have chemical analyses of samples of archeological snuff powders from such kits, which indicate the presence of bufotenine, DMT, and 5-Me O-DMT.
A quick search of ayahuasca tourist and related websites reveals virtually identical statements of this claim: “The use of Ayahuasca has been recorded over 5000 years ago by the natives of Amazon and surrounding areas,” “Ayahuasca has been known to people for over 5000 years,” “This plant medicine has been used for over 5000 years throughout the Amazonian basin,” “Ayahuasca has been used for over 5000 years.” These examples could be multiplied. Just for perspective, the date of 3000 BC would make the origins of the ayahuasca drink as old as the founding of the first Egyptian dynasty, five centuries older than the reign of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh, and almost ten centuries older than the earliest South American devices yet discovered for the ingestion of DMT-containing plants—two pipes found in association with seeds in northwest Argentina, which have been radiocarbon dated to 2130 BC, and which had residues that tested positive for DMT (Torres, 1995, p. And while it is true that the parenteral ingestion of DMT-containing plants is of considerable antiquity in South America, there is no corresponding archeological or documentary evidence prior to the eighteenth century for the combination of a DMT-containing plant with the ayahuasca vine for oral ingestion.
But first: Why such extraordinary claims for which support is so thin? The first is that, in an attempt to legitimate ayahuasca use, its proponents invoke the culturally resonant trope of a millennia-old indigenous wisdom.
The absence of 5-Me O-DMT in the hair samples would then indicate that the ayahuasca vine was consumed without the addition of a DMT-containing companion plant.
Chemical archaeologist Juan Pablo Ogalde and his colleagues at the University of Tarapacá in Arica, Chile, analyzed the chemical composition of hairs from 32 mummies from northern Chile, dating to the Tiwanakuan expansion, looking specifically for harmine and 5-Me O-DMT (Ogalde, Arriaza, & Soto, 2009). None of the 32 mummy hair samples tested positive for 5-Me O-DMT, and two tested positive for harmine.