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The Mayans smoked tobacco mixed with Day of the Dead flower

Anthropologists have known for decades that pre-Columbian cultures used drugs . What is still not entirely clear is what substances and for what purposes . However, an investigation by Washington State University indicates that the Mayans smoked tobacco combined with the marigold flower, iconic in the commemoration of the Day of the Dead.

The experts describe in an investigation published in Scientific Reports the finding of remains of marigold ( known in English as African marigold ) in containers used to store tobacco and that it was possibly used to improve the experience. The discovery, says postdoctor in anthropology Mario Zimmermann, was possible from a method that allows the identification of various metabolic components in containers that are thousands of years old. The method represents a substantial advance in substance identification as screening is typically done with reagents for specific components.

"The problem with this method is that a nicotine biomarker would reflect that tobacco was smoked, but it does not tell you what other substance was stored in the artifact," says David Gang, Researcher at the Washington State University Biochemistry Institute. "The method we use tells you if that plant you are looking for is here, but it also tells you what else was consumed."

The researchers say that the finding occurred after the analysis of two ceremonial vessels found in 2012 in the Yucatan peninsula by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the federal office in charge of safeguarding historical objects in Mexico.

Following the find, Zimmermann and his team seek authorization from INAH to analyze more old containers.

"Doing so will allow us to further investigate the relationship that these cultures had with various psychoactive plants that continue to be consumed by various people around the world."

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