Guayusa leaves buried with Tiwanaku shaman

Guayusa leaves buried with Tiwanaku shaman

A Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) burial site surprises archeologists with 1500 year old guayusa and tools for grinding them into a snuff.

Ilex guayusa has been used for centuries by humans, earlier blogs have touched upon this subject, oral use in the form of beverages, concoctions and tinctures are common ways to ingest guayusa. There has been discussion of other ways to administer the beneficial alkaloids in the guayusa plant. Some clarity was given when a tomb of a Tiwanaku medicine man was opened in the early 1970’s.


Tiwanaku Sun Gate

Tiwanaku culture pre-dated that of the Incas, it flourished between 400 B.C. and 120 A.C.  inhabiting the Collao plateau and surrounding areas of lake Titicaca. Extending their domain to Arequipa it stretched over a great part of present day Bolivia. Their cultural influence reached the coast and North Andean part of Peru. Its cultural center was located in the citadel of Tiwanaku, in the current territory of Bolivia. Their agricultural knowledge was extensive, amongst others corn, potato and quinoa. The Titicaca basin is a very productive environment with predictable rainfall. It is no wonder they developed expanded farming. Tiwanaku culture was characterized for immense stone works made with such precision that most academics can’t explain how this civilization made them.The Akapana pyramid is 257 m wide, 197 m broad and 16.5 m tall. The largest stone block within the Akapana, weighs about 65.7 tonnes! The Tiwanaku Sun Gate is an amazing stone structure. The popular tv-series Ancient Aliens has some interesting theories on how it was built but be it aliens gods or mortals; someone sure needed energy to drag them stones around…

Ancient snuffing trays and tube.

Amongst several artifacts found in this tomb were a snuffing tube, tubes that may have been enema tubes, bamboo storage tubes for powders, spatulas, snuf trays, a mortar and pestle, a hollow fruit container and several bundles of very neatly pressed Ilex guayusa leaves. They were so perfectly preserved you could compare them with present day specimens. Having been prepared with such great care indicated they had been included in the burial with a specific purpose we can now only guess at.


Caffeine containing plants have not been known for use as anything else than a beverage, the presence of mortar and pestle, snuffing trays and tube give rise to the suspicion that the leaves might have been placed in the grave for the preparation and use, by the deceased shaman, as a snuff since caffeine would certainly be active when absorbed by nasal mucous membranes (even after death). The presence of tubes known to be utilized as clysters hints to the use of Ilex guayusa as an enema. While no caffeine containing plant has ever been know to be used like this, rectal administration of tobacco and other plants is widespread in South America.


1500 year old guayusa leaves.

The 1500 year old leaves were very peculiarly packed, each bundle consisted of five leaves, each leave placed with the still shiny side up, the middle leaf in the bundel is the largest leaf and folded in half so the other leaves would be larger. Each pair of leaves turned so that the lower sides are in contact. Researchers asked if there might be some magical significance? Many possibilities and questions remain. Also guayusa could not grow at the altitude of the archaeological site so some kind of guayusa trade must have existed over 2000 years ago, leaves must have been imported from lower and warmer Amazonian regions. Fact is that Jesuit priests a 1000 years later still sold their cultivated leaves in allotments of five at the Quito market place.

If you are interested to read the full publication on this archeological find go here


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