Iconography of Transformation: The Question of Hallucinogenic Remnants in Ritual Artifacts at Chavin de Huantar
1 online resource (68 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
In a mountain valley of the South American country of Perú rests a site at the core of an ancient and influential culture. That site is known as Chavín de Huántar, a relatively small area which boasts monumental architecture and carved images of supernatural creatures as well as processes of priests transforming into anthropomorphic, non-human animals. The foundation of power at this site, as well as the cause of its unique iconography, has been argued to be the result of hallucinogenic drug-use. However, there is no biological evidence of hallucinogenic plants at the site to support this theory. The concept itself has persisted without any real question or reanalysis based on ethnographic analogy and interpretations of the highly stylized images at Chavín de Huántar. Originally, it was my intention to retrieve samples from Chavín artifacts believed to be associated with the practice of consuming hallucinogenic snuff. However, I was unable to obtain these samples and had to seek data from a culture existing at the same time and believed to have been within the Chavín "sphere of influence". I was successful in obtaining samples from ceramics of the Paracas culture. Three of the samples were then analyzed using Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry. The first round of analysis, utilizing a less complex mass spectrometer, produced results suggesting the presence of multiple alkaloids, including cocaine and ergotaman (ergocryptine). The second round of analysis, utilizing a normal mass spectrometer, produced more complex results with possible molecular mass matches to various amino acids, some alkaloids, and even a few hormone-related compounds. The implications of these results are unclear, but it is clear that the contents of the Paracas vessels are in need of greater analysis. Also, these results suggest that this same analysis can be successfully applied to Chavín artifacts and will most likely produce results that are equally interesting.
Levy, JanetHouck, Charles
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2015.
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