A particular type of miniature ceramic vessel locally known as “veneneras” is occasionally found during archaeological excavations in the Maya Area. To date, only one study of a collection of such containers successfully identified organic residues through coupled chromatography–mass spectrometry methods. That study identified traces of nicotine likely associated with tobacco. Here we present a more complete picture by analyzing a suite of possible complementary ingredients in tobacco mixtures across a collection of 14 miniature vessels. The collection includes four different vessel forms and allows for the comparison of specimens which had previously formed part of museum exhibitions with recently excavated, untreated containers. Archaeological samples were compared with fresh as well as cured reference materials from two different species of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica). In addition, we sampled six more plants which are linked to mind-altering practices through Mesoamerican ethnohistoric or ethnographic records. Analyses were conducted using UPLC-MS metabolomics-based analytical techniques, which significantly expand the possible detection of chemical compounds compared to previous biomarker-focused studies. Results include the detection of more than 9000 residual chemical features. We trace, for the first time, the presence of Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) in presumptive polydrug mixtures.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Scientific Reports, v. 11, issue 1, article no. 1590.

© The Author(s) 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation (Grant numbers 1419506 and 1918966), as well as PARME and PASUC. This work was also supported in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 227700 (DRG).