Ancient Yucca quids with wild tobacco (Nicotiana) contents: the dawn of the molecular era in Southwest US archaeobotany

Date and Time: 
Friday, 18 March, 2016 - 11:30
, Karen - Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Unburned yucca (Yucca) quids with wild tobacco (Nicotiana attenutata) contents have preserved within Antelope Cave in northwestern Arizona. Although the cave was visited from the Archaic to the Euro-American periods, material culture remains and radiocarbon dates indicate heaviest use by the Virgin Anasazi (A.D. 1-1000). Quids are wads of fiber twisted/knotted into a ball for insertion into the mouth. Ten of the quids examined were made from the fibers of Yucca plants, based on molecular analysis and comparison to the DNA of Yucca, Agave, and Nolina plants known from the surrounding region. Twenty-eight of thirty quids examined were wrapped around a range of wild tobacco flowering stalk fragments (capsule, seed, calyx, pedicel, main stem, leaf). Quids have been interpreted as serving numerous needs (food, ceremonial/ritual, medicinal, other). The inclusion of tobacco and the scattered contexts of recovery within Antelope Cave suggest these quids provided occupants with a personal narcotic experience.