archaeology and alkaloids preservation

Jimbo at Bimbo.com Jimbo at Bimbo.com
Wed Aug 28 18:30:23 EST 1996

On Wed, 28 Aug 1996 14:13:34 GMT, juan at trivium.gh.ub.es (jordi
juan-tresserras) wrote:
>Dear all,
>Recently I found remains of THC in a charred residue from an arabian
>pipe from the XIII century levels from an archaeological excavation
>near Barcelona (Spain). There are also similar analysis with charred
>pipe contents from an archaeological site in Ethiopia from the same
>The study of alkaloids in hair, soft tissues, bones or teeth is a new
>area of the archaeological research. There are some studies mainly in
>mummies from Egypt and South America. Recently some researchers have
>began to study these remains in skeletons. At this moment we are
>working with some trepaned skulls from several neolithic sites in the
>Iberian peninsula. Other microscopic remains as pollen grains, opal
>and calicum oxalate phytoliths, sclereids or starch granules from the
>dental calculus are also studied.
>I am serching bibliographycal references or studies about the
>degradation or the preservation of alcaloids. The paleo and
>ethnobotanical studies revels that the potential medicinal plants (or
>drugs) used in the area are basically Cannabis sativa, Papaver
>somniferum, Datura and Atropa. If anyone know some information about
>it, please, let me know.
>Jordi Juan i Tresserras
>Unitat d'Arqueobotanica
>SERP/Dept.Prehistoria, H. Antiga i Arqueologia
>UNIVERSITAT DE BARCELONA                        
>Baldiri i Reixac, s/n   Torre B pis 11            tel/fax:
>E-08028-Barcelona                                 e-mail:
>juan at trivium.gh.ub.es
>(Espanya, Union Europea)
>"Cada epoca de la historia modifica el fogon, y cada pueblo come segun
>su alma, antes tal vez que segun su estomago" - Emilia Pardo Bazan
Datura is known as Jimpson weed and Loco weed 
Indians in New Mexico and Northern Mexico used the alkaloid poison to
achieve  a state in which  they could interact with the spiritual
world. Peyote was also used. a holy man typically would tend to use
one or the other,  and not mix the two. however, they did would switch
their preferences  every few years. the preparation of datura was an
extract from the roo. not in a big worship meeting but still very
ceremonial and private. The utensils used to prepare and ingest the
liquors were a medium sized cooking pot and small cups for drinking,
ladels or spoons for stirring.  One might expect these utensils for
preparation would have absorbed traces of the toxins, and would
probably be fairly standardized in any given region. The same rituals
being observed in a similar manner as was handed down from priest to
The production of Mescaline was more elaborate and the drug of choice
to these aborigines Generally because it was not a deadly as Datura.
There will certainly be situations where the ingestion of Datura
resulted in death. The seeds of Datura are very distinctive and tough
as are the seed pods and may have been preservers well enough to be
distinguished. The Seeds were not used by american native because they
were too potent and deadly.  Due to the bitterness of the plant and
the obviously lethal odor and white flowers, I find it hard to believe
that cattle would ingest the Plant, as we have lead to believe. I
think the Name Loco weed  came from humans who have tried it and went
Nutty. The Alkaloid causes the shin to flush bright orange and I mean
orange, complete loss of muscle coordination, slurred speech,
hallucinations, visual acuity is nil, and generally totally out if.
The pods are  golf to tennis ball size with short woody spines all
over them to aid in dissemination by sticking to hair fur cloth etc.
the Seeds are flattened disc shaped about 3-4 mm in diameter and 1/2
mm thick the root is bifurcated  about 4-8 inches under the soil

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