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The Development of Inequality in Middle Horizon Cusco: Entheogens and Ritual Ceremonies to the Rescue

Author(s): Véronique Bélisle

Year: 2016

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The Andean and Amazonian regions are home to numerous plants that can be prepared to induce altered states of consciousness. During the pre-Inka period in the Cusco area, evidence from the village of Ak'awillay indicates the consumption of alcohol, coca, and hallucinogens in public ceremonies. Some of the rituals involving entheogens could have corresponded to healing sessions, but the paraphernalia uncovered at the site suggests that most hallucinogens were consumed to communicate with the supernatural. These activities provided key individuals with a privileged access to followers, spirits, and deities that could have set them apart from the rest of the population, contributing to increasing inequality in the region during the Middle Horizon (AD 600-1000). The procurement of psychoactive substances and other ritual items from the jungle and elsewhere further indicates access to long-distance trade networks that could have been used to support, display, and justify status at Ak'awillay. Despite the presence of Wari colonists in the region, select individuals living at Ak'awillay were able to connect to a larger network that not only exchanged goods but also shared beliefs and ritual practices during the Middle Horizon.

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The Development of Inequality in Middle Horizon Cusco: Entheogens and Ritual Ceremonies to the Rescue. Véronique Bélisle. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403827)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America