Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-rvbq7 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-12T15:13:07.790Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Production Matters

Organic Residue Evidence for Late Precolumbian Datura-Making in the Central Arkansas River Valley

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 August 2021

Shawn P. Lambert*
Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, Mississippi State University, PO Box AR, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39761, USA
Timothy K. Perttula
Archeological & Environmental Consultants LLC, 10101 Woodhaven Drive, Austin, Texas 78753, USA (
Nilesh W. Gaikwad
Gaikwad Steroidomics Lab LLC, Davis, California 95616, USA (
(, corresponding author)


Recent absorbed residue studies have confirmed that ceramic and shell containers were used for consuming Datura in precolumbian times. Until now, no one has identified what tools precolumbian people used to produce a concentrated hallucinogenic concoction. In this study, we used mass spectrometry to identify Datura residues (a flowering plant with hallucinogenic properties) in two late precolumbian composite bottles from the Central Arkansas River valley. Unlike the construction of most Mississippian bottles, the bottles in this study are unique because ceramic disks with a series of concentric perforations were incorporated in the bottles at the juncture of the bottle neck with the globular portion of the body. The organic residue analysis revealed Datura residues in both bottles. We argue that the internal clay disks served as strainers that allowed Datura producers to separate the hallucinogenic alkaloids from the Datura flower to produce a powerful liquid beverage.

Estudios recientes de residuos absorbidos han confirmado que en la época precolombina se utilizaban recipientes de cerámica y de concha para consumir Datura. Hasta ahora, nadie ha identificado qué herramientas usaban los pueblos precolombinos para producir una mezcla alucinógena concentrada. En este estudio, utilizamos espectrometría de masas para identificar residuos de Datura (una planta con flores con propiedades alucinógenas) en dos botellas compuestas precolombinas tardías del valle del río Arkansas Central. A diferencia de la construcción de la mayoría de las botellas de Mississippian, las botellas de este estudio son únicas porque se incorporaron discos de cerámica con una serie de perforaciones concéntricas en las botellas en la unión del cuello de la botella con la porción globular del cuerpo. El análisis de residuos orgánicos reveló residuos de Datura en ambas botellas. Argumentamos que los discos de arcilla internos sirvieron como filtros que permitieron a los productores de Datura separar los alcaloides alucinógenos de la flor de Datura para producir una poderosa bebida líquida.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for American Archaeology

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Andrews, Evangeline W., and Andrews, Charles M. (editors) 1981 Jonathan Dickinson's Journal or God's Protecting Providence. Southeastern Printing, Stuart, Florida.Google Scholar
Applegate, Richard B. 1975 The Datura Cult among the Chumash. Journal of California Anthropology 2:617.Google Scholar
Baker, John R. 1994 The Old Woman and Her Gifts: Pharmacological Bases of the Chumash Use of Datura. Curare 17:253276.Google Scholar
Bell, Robert E. 1980 Oklahoma Indian Artifacts. Contributions No. 4. Stovall Museum, University of Oklahoma, Norman.Google Scholar
Benitez, Guillermo, March-Salas, Marti, Villa-Kamel, Alberto, Chaves-Jimenez, Ulises, Hernandez, Javier, Montes-Osuna, Nuria, Moreno-Chocano, Joaquin, and Carinanos, Paloma 2018 The Genus Datura L. (Solanaceae) in Mexico and Spain – Ethnobotanical Perspective at the Interface of Medical and Illicit Uses. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 219:133151.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Berlant, Tony, Maurer, Evan, and Burtenshaw, Julia 2018 Decoding Mimbres Painting: Ancient Ceramics of the American South. Prestel, New York.Google Scholar
Brown, James A. 1997 The Archaeology of Ancient Religion in the Eastern Woodlands. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:465485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duncan, James R., and Diaz-Granados, Carol 2004 Empowering the SECC: The “Old Woman” and Oral Tradition. In The Rock Art of Eastern North America: Capturing Images and Insight, edited by Diaz-Granados, Carol and Duncan, James R., pp. 190215. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.Google Scholar
Dye, David H. 2012 The Duck River Cache and Middle Mississippian Ritual Performance. Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology, Nashville, Tennessee.Google Scholar
Dye, David H. 2015 Earth Mother Cult Ceramic Statuary in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Paper presented at the 72nd Annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.Google Scholar
Earles, Chake K. 2015 Traditional Caddo Potter. Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology 54:101110.Google Scholar
Emerson, Thomas E. 1989 Water, Serpents and the Underworld: An Exploration into Cahokia Symbolism. In The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex: Artifacts and Analysis, edited by Galloway, Patricia, pp. 4592. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.Google Scholar
Emerson, Thomas E., and Jackson, Douglas K. 1984 The BBB Motor Site. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.Google Scholar
Fairbanks, Charles H. 1979 The Function of Black Drink among the Creeks. In Black Drink: A Native American Tea, edited by Hudson, Charles M., pp. 120149. University of Georgia Press, Athens.Google Scholar
Geeta, R., and Gharaibeh, Waleed 2007 Historical Evidence for a Pre-Columbian Presence of Datura in the Old World and Implications for a First Millennium Transfer from the New World. Journal of Biosciences 32:12271244.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Guerra-Doce, Elisa 2015 The Origins of Inebriation: Archaeological Evidence of the Consumption of Fermented Beverages and Drugs in Prehistoric Eurasia. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22:751782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeter, Marvin D., and Mintz, John J. 1990 Ceramics from the Goldsmith Oliver 2 Site. In Goldsmith Oliver 2 (3PU306): A Protohistoric Archeological Site near Little Rock, Arkansas, Vol. I, edited by Jeter, Marvin D., Cande, Kathleen H., and Mintz, John J., pp. 255316. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville.Google Scholar
King, Adam, Powis, Terry G., Cheong, Kong F., Deere, Bobi, Pickering, Robert B., Singleton, Eric, and Gaikwad, Nilesh W. 2018 Absorbed Residue Evidence for Prehistoric Datura Use in the American Southeast and Western Mexico. Advances in Archaeological Practice 6:312327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knight, Vernon James Jr., and Franke, Judith A. 2007 Identification of a Moth/Butterfly Supernatural in Mississippian Art. In Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, edited by Kent Reilly, F. III and Garber, James F., pp. 136151. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Lambert, Shawn P. 2017 Alternative Pathways to Ritual Power: Evidence for Centralized Production and Long-Distance Exchange between Northern and Southern Caddo Communities. PhD dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, Norman.Google Scholar
Lambert, Shawn P. 2018 Addressing the Cosmological Significance of a Pot: A Search for Cosmological Structure in the Craig Mound. Caddo Archaeology Journal 28:2137.Google Scholar
Lankford, George E. 2007 Some Cosmological Motifs in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. In Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, edited by Kent Reilly, F. and Garber, James F., pp. 838. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Lankford, George E. 2011 The Swirl-Cross and the Center. In Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World, edited by Lankford, George E., Kent Reilly, F. III, and Garber, James F., pp. 251278. University of Texas Press, Austin.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lankford, George E. 2012 Weeded Out the Noded. Arkansas Archeologist. 50:5068.Google Scholar
Lankford, George E. 2014 Following the Noded Trail. Arkansas Archeologist. 53:5168.Google Scholar
Lester, R. N., Nee, M., and Estrada, N. 1991 Solanaceae III: Taxonomy, Chemistry, Evolution. In Proceedings of Third International Conference on Solanaceae, edited by Hawkes, J. G., pp. 197210. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.Google Scholar
Litzinger, William 1981 Ceramic Evidence for Prehistoric Datura Use in North America. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 4:5774.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Loubser, Johannes, Ashcraft, Scott, and Wettstaed, James 2018 Betwixt and Between: The Occurrence of Petroglyphs between Townhouses of the Living and Townhouses of Spirit Beings in Northern Georgia and Western North Carolina. In Transforming the Landscape: Rock Art and the Mississippian Cosmos, edited by Diaz-Granados, Carol, Simek, Jan, Sabo, George III, and Wagner, Mark, pp. 200241. American Landscapes, Havertown, Pennsylvania.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luer, George M. 1996 Mississippian Ceramic Jars, Bottles, and Gourds as Compound Vessels. Southeastern Archaeology 15:181191.Google Scholar
Malotki, Ekkehart 1999 The Use of Hallucinogenic Plants by the Archaic-Basketmaker Rock Art Creators of the Palavayu, Northeast Arizona: The Case for Datura. American Indian Rock Art 25:101120.Google Scholar
Milfort, Louis 1959 Memoirs, or a Quick Glance at My Various Travels and My Sojourn in the Creek Nation. Translated and edited by McCary, Ben C.. Continental Book, Kennesaw, Georgia.Google Scholar
Parker, Kathryn E., and Simon, Mary L. 2018 Magic Plants and Mississippian Ritual. In Archaeology and Ancient Religion in the American Midcontinent, edited by Koldehoff, Brad H. and Pauketat, Timothy R., pp. 117166. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.Google Scholar
Pauketat, Timothy R. 1987 A Functional Consideration of a Mississippian Domestic Vessel Assemblage. Southeastern Archaeology 6:115.Google Scholar
Phillips, Phillip 1970 Archaeological Survey in the Lower Yazoo Basin, Mississippi, 1949–1955. Papers Vol. 60. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
Prentice, Guy 1986 Origins of Plant Domestication in the Eastern United States: Promoting the Individual in Archaeological Theory. Southeastern Archaeology 5:103119.Google Scholar
Rafferty, Sean M. 2007 The Archaeology of Alkaloids. In Theory and Practice of Archaeological Residue Analysis, edited by Barnard, Hans and Eerkens, Jelmer W., pp. 179188. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1650. Archaeopress, London.Google Scholar
Rafferty, Sean M. 2018 Prehistoric Intoxicants of North America. In Ancient Psychoactive Substances, edited by Fitzpatrick, Scott M., pp. 112127. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reilly, F. Kent 2004 People of Earth, People of Sky: Visualizing the Sacred in Native Art of the Mississippian Period. In Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, edited by Townsend, Richard and Sharp, Robert V., pp. 125138. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.Google Scholar
Reilly, F. Kent 2007 The Petaloid Motif: A Celestial Symbolic Locative in the Shell Art of Spiro. In Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, edited by Reilly, F. Kent and Garber, James F., pp. 3955. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Reilly, F. Kent, and Garber, James F. (editors) 2007 Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
Robinson, David W., Brown, Kelly, McMenemy, Moira, Dennany, Lynn, Baker, Matthew J., Allan, Pamela, Cartwright, Caroline, et al. 2020 Datura Quids at Pinwheel Cave, California, Provide Unambiguous Confirmation of the Ingestion of Hallucinogens at a Rock Art Site. PNAS 117:3102631037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stahl, Peter W. 1985 The Hallucinogenic Basis of Early Valdivia Phase Ceramic Bowl Iconography. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 17:105123.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Vanpool, Christine S. 2009 The Signs of the Sacred: Identifying Shamans Using Archaeological Evidence. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28:177190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wagner, Gail E. 2000 Tobacco in Prehistoric Eastern North America. In Tobacco Use by Native Americans: Sacred Smoke and Silent Killer, edited by Winter, Joseph C., pp. 185201. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.Google Scholar
Washburn, Dorothy K., Washburn, William N., and Shipkova, Petia A. 2012 Cacao Consumption during the 8th Century at Alkali Ridge, Southeastern Utah. Journal of Archaeological Science 40:20072013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiewal, Rebecca 2014 Constructing Community in the Central Arkansas River Valley: Ceramic Compositional Analysis and Collaborative Archaeology. PhD dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.Google Scholar