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Early Holocene coca chewing in northern Peru

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2010

Tom D. Dillehay*
Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA Instituto de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
Jack Rossen
Department of Anthropology, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Donald Ugent
Department of Botany, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
Anathasios Karathanasis
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, KY 40506, USA
Víctor Vásquez
Laboratorio de Arqueobiología, Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Perú
Patricia J. Netherly
Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA


Chewing coca in South America began by at least 8000 cal BP: our authors found and identified coca leaves of that date in house floors in the Nanchoc Valley, Peru. There were also pieces of calcite — which is used by chewers to bring out the alkaloids from the leaves. Excavation and chemical analysis at a group of neighbouring sites suggests that specialists were beginning to extract and supply lime or calcite, and by association coca, as a community activity at about the same time as systematic farming was taking off in the region.

Research articles
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2010

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