It’s difficult to cheer up a youngster who has just been chosen as a god’s sacrifice, but a new study reveals that the Incas may have treated their young murder victims with medications to keep their spirits up. The research, which was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, includes toxicological data from two toddlers who were transported to the summit of a volcano in Peru and tested positive for cocaine and alkaloids found in ayahuasca.
The two youngsters were immolated roughly 500 years ago as part of a capacocha rite at an altitude of 5,800 meters on Ampato Mountain. They were thought to be between the ages of six and seven at the time of their death. The capacocha was one of the most important Inca rites, and it was used to safeguard communities from natural calamities by sacrificing children and young women.
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Both youngsters had traces of the alkaloids harmine and harmaline, according to the researchers. The authors speculate that the jungle vine from which the psychedelic beverage ayahuasca is manufactured is “the sole potential source of harmine and harmaline in the Andean area,” alluding to the jungle vine from which the psychedelic brew ayahuasca is made. Given that these alkaloids are known to increase serotonin levels in the brain and have anti-depressant properties, the researchers believe that the victims were likely given ayahuasca before being slaughtered to keep them happy.
This hypothesis is corroborated by early Spanish conquistadors’ diaries, which said that the emotions of the victims were deemed crucial to the effectiveness of Inca sacrificial ceremonies. “Knowing that you were about to be ritually killed in such a daunting location as a mountain peak undoubtedly caused considerable anxiety in a prospective victim and might have resulted in a depressed condition,” the scientists write. “It’s possible that the active ingestion of Banisteriopsis caapi made the victims more accepting of their destiny.” “If that’s the case, this would be the first instance of ayahuasca’s antidepressant qualities being used consciously,” they conclude.