“The resulting psychotropic experience reinforced the power of the Wari state, and represents an intermediate step between exclusionary and corporate political strategies.”
New research published in Antiquity , an academic journal of archaeology, has revealed that beer infused with a psychedelic substance may have played an important role in the social and political relationships of an ancient South American empire.
Previous archaeological evidence has shown that vilca was consumed in ancient South America for its hallucinogenic properties, but Justin Jennings, an archaeologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the lead author of the study, told National Geographic that the substance was usually reserved for “political and religious elites.”
It’s believed that Wari families who migrated to Quilcapampa may have combined the substances and introduced them to other groups in the region to form alliances and gain political power. The Wari preceded the Incas and ruled what is now Peru from 600 to 1,000 AD.
“What the Wari did was say, ‘We’re going to combine these… and when we put them together, we’re going to have this shared experience,’” Jennings said.
The researchers write that psychoactive substances were often tied to “exclusionary leadership strategies” during the Formative Period Andes and earlier. They hypothesize that by sharing the substance with a large number of people at feasts and other gatherings, “Wari leaders were able to legitimize and maintain their heightened status.”
“These individuals were able to offer memorable, collective psychotropic feasts, but ensured that they could not be independently replicated,” the researchers conclude, adding that “shifts in psychoactive use similar to those in the Andes were almost certainly a fundamental part of the political process in other parts of the world.”
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