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.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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).
Zimmermann, Mario; Brownstein, Korey J.; Pantoja Díaz, Luis; Ancona Aragón, Iliana; Hutson, Scott R.; Kidder, Barry; Tushingham, Shannon; and Gang, David R., "Metabolomics-Based Analysis of Miniature Flask Contents Identifies Tobacco Mixture Use among the Ancient Maya" (2021). Anthropology Faculty Publications. 22.