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Researchers find evidence of ritual use of ‘black drink’ at Cahokia
Heritage Daily ^ | 8-7-2012

Posted on 08/08/2012 5:53:39 AM PDT by Renfield

People living 700 to 900 years ago in Cahokia, a massive settlement near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, ritually used a caffeinated brew made from the leaves of a holly tree that grew hundreds of miles away, researchers report.

The discovery – made by analyzing plant residues in pottery beakers from Cahokia and its surroundings – is the earliest known use of this “black drink” in North America. It pushes back the date by at least 500 years, and adds to the evidence that a broad cultural and trade network thrived in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. as early as A.D. 1050.

The new findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlight the cultural importance of Greater Cahokia, a city with as many as 50,000 residents in its heyday, the largest prehistoric North American settlement north of Mexico.

“This finding brings to us a whole wide spectrum of religious and symbolic behavior at Cahokia that we could only speculate about in the past,” said Thomas Emerson, the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey and a collaborator on the study with researchers at the University of Illinois, the University of New Mexico, Millsaps College in Mississippi and Hershey Technical Center in Pennsylvania. The Archaeological Survey is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the U. of I.

University of New Mexico anthropology professor Patricia Crown and Hershey Technical Center chemist Jeffrey Hurst conducted the chemical analyses of plant residues on the Cahokian beakers, a project inspired in part by a similar analysis they led that found that people living in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in A.D. 1100-1125 consumed liquid chocolate in special ceramic vessels found there.

Despite decades of research, archaeologists are at a loss to explain the sudden emergence of Greater Cahokia (which included settlements in present-day St. Louis, East St. Louis and the surrounding five counties) at about A.D. 1100 – and its rapid decline some 200 years later. A collection of ceremonial mounds, some of them immense, quickly rose from the floodplain more or less simultaneously on both sides of the Mississippi. The Cahokian mound builders spawned other short-lived settlements as far away as Wisconsin, Emerson said.

Greater Cahokia appears to have been a crossroads of people and cultural influences. The presence of the black drink there – made from a plant that grows hundreds of miles away, primarily on the Gulf coast – is evidence of a substantial trade network with the southeast.

“I would argue that it was the first pan-Indian city in North America, because there are both widespread contacts and emigrants,” Emerson said. “The evidence from artifacts indicates that people from a broad region (what is now the Midwest and southeast U.S.) were in contact with Cahokia. This is a level of population density, a level of political organization that has not been seen before in North America.”

How this early experiment in urban living held together for as long as it did has remained a mystery.

“People have said, well, how would you integrate this?” Emerson said. “One of the obvious ways is through religion.”

Europeans were the first to record the use of what they called “the black drink” by Native American men in the southeast. This drink, a dark tea made from the roasted leaves of the Yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria) contains caffeine.

Different groups used the black drink for different purposes, but for many it was a key component of a purification ritual before battle or other important events. Its high caffeine content – as much as six times that of strong coffee, by some estimates – induced sweating. Rapid consumption of large quantities of the hot drink allowed men to vomit, an important part of the purification ritual.

At the same time the black drink was in use at Cahokia, a series of sophisticated figurines representing agricultural fertility, the underworld and life-renewal were carved from local pipestone. Most of these figures were associated with temple sites.

“We postulate that this new pattern of agricultural religious symbolism is tied to the rise of Cahokia – and now we have black drink to wash it down with,” Emerson said.

The beakers, too, appear to be a Cahokia invention. They look like single-serving, cylindrical pots with a handle on one side and a tiny lip on the other. Many are carved with symbols representing water and the underworld and are reminiscent of the whelk shells used in black drink ceremonies (recorded hundreds of years later) in the southeast, where the Yaupon holly grows.

The researchers chose to look for evidence of black drink in the beakers because the pots were distinctive and fairly rare, Emerson said. The team found key biochemical markers of the drink – theobromine, caffeine and ursolic acid – in the right proportions to each other in each of the eight beakers they tested. The beakers date from A.D. 1050 to 1250 and were collected at ritual sites in and around Cahokia.

Cahokia was ultimately a failed experiment. The carving of figurines and the mound building there came to an abrupt end, and the population dwindled to zero. But its influence carried on. Cahokian influences in art, religion and architecture are seen as far away as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin, Emerson said.


TOPICS: History; Science
KEYWORDS: americanindians; archaeology; caffeine; cahokia; godsgravesglyphs; mississippian; moundbuilders

Residents of Cahokia, a massive pre-Columbian settlement near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, consumed “Black Drink ” from special pottery vessels like this one.

1 posted on 08/08/2012 5:53:51 AM PDT by Renfield
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To: All
Yaupon:


2 posted on 08/08/2012 5:55:54 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping


3 posted on 08/08/2012 5:59:39 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield
near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

Perfect spot if you're looking for widespread trade. You could trade with a 3rd of the continent from such a position. Add a day's portage and you could cover the great lakes region as well.
4 posted on 08/08/2012 6:10:32 AM PDT by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: Renfield

Pre-Colombian Starbucks?

Caution, don’t try this one at home. Holly berries probably won’t kill you, but they are toxic enough to make you sick.


5 posted on 08/08/2012 6:12:15 AM PDT by newheart (At what point does policy become treason?)
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To: Renfield
Photobucket
6 posted on 08/08/2012 6:13:57 AM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
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To: newheart

You don’t brew the berries, just the tender new leaves. Every year when the Robins migrate through they gorge on the berries.


7 posted on 08/08/2012 6:16:07 AM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
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To: Renfield

“archaeologists are at a loss to explain the sudden emergence of Greater Cahokia”

No question: they were “coffee achievers”


8 posted on 08/08/2012 6:20:16 AM PDT by babble-on
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To: cripplecreek

Indeed. Also the Ohio River was another trade superhighway, with short portages to Lake Erie and the rivers that fed into the Atlantic.

I’m convinced that Europeans arrived here during the American “Dark Ages”—the occupation of barbarian tribes after the fall of a great civilization or complex of civilizations. Cahokia was its Rome, and its lingering vestiges were seen by De Soto and others in the historical Mississippian populations in the Southeast.

The Lenape had legends of a great civilization to the West, the Alligewi, who they and the Iroquois teamed up to destroy.


9 posted on 08/08/2012 6:29:19 AM PDT by Claud
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To: SWAMPSNIPER
You don’t brew the berries,

I know. You are correct, but just wanted to make it clear that using the berries is not a good idea. (And, frankly, I'm not sure I'd be all that interested in the drink brewed from the leaves either.)

10 posted on 08/08/2012 6:32:16 AM PDT by newheart (At what point does policy become treason?)
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To: SWAMPSNIPER

Birds are headed for a rough winter here. The honeysuckle berries that the birds rely on during the winter have already dried up and fallen off. The bushes themselves are dying now too. The wild rose hips are like hard little rocks at this point. No wild grapes either.

I’ll put out a lot of seed and suet but I can’t save them all.


11 posted on 08/08/2012 6:38:49 AM PDT by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: cripplecreek

Not just the birds. The blackberry crop in Kentucky and Tennessee just dried up on the canes, and the bears in the mountains didn’t have anything to fatten up on this summer. Already there are reports of more bear-garbage issues than normal. A lot of bears will get into trouble this fall.


12 posted on 08/08/2012 7:00:46 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield
That's not all.
Our deer and turkey populations will suffer because the acorns are small to non existent.
13 posted on 08/08/2012 7:15:38 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (I didn't post this. Someone else did.)
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To: cripplecreek
Do not use the HOLLY BERRIES. You must stick to the leaves. BTW, this is the North American version of the same plant family used for MATE in Uruguay/Paraguay, and is closely related in that line with the Chinese Cha/Te ~ same word, different languages ~ TEA PLANT.

These things produce large quantities of caffein.

Worth noting ~ many analysts through the centuries, starting with the first Spanish explorers on the scene, have judged Cahokia to have some contact with CHINA.

This is about as far North as you can go in a serious ship (before modern dredging techniques and the development of a system of locks and dams along the upper Mississippi and the Missouri rivers.

About 800 AD somebody ~ no one knows who ~ showed up with the Old World invention called THE BOW AND ARROW. There are no traces before that period. Many have speculated that some folks with a taste for tea showed up at the same time.

Cahokia was developed on a long occupied area, but this town grew to have about 50,000 people making it the largest city North of Mexico City. The first traces of the dominant culture (with their totemic animals, ceremonial songs, dances and so forth) showed up about 700 AD ~ there was a big spike in cultural advance for the next couple of centuries, and by 1500, although it was still in business, they got wiped out by the great hanta virus epidemic that'd swept both North and South America (coincident with but not caused by European discovery ~ this stuff killed the Europeans as well).

It was so difficult to build up populations, whether native, or African, or European, during that period (hanta virus plague) that Europeans focused their efforts on mostly the offshore islands.

Finally, some time in the late 1500s things opened up a bit in South and Central America, and even in North America.

By the mid 1600s the plague had returned to North America but Europeans were too engaged in the 30 years war to much care. Major development didn't begin again until the late 1600s ~ first Bacon's Rebellion, the Pequot War, and a couple of other things demonstrated dissatisfaction with the Old Order of private development companies, and both led directly to the imposition of Crown Colonies on all the English claimed areas (and some of the French and Spanish claims as well).

In the meantime ~ mid 1500 to late 1600s there were some brave souls who were undoubtedly naturally immune to cholera, undulent fever, influenza, black plague, typhod, typhus and maybe a dozen other common ailments found in the then American heartland

They left some markers of their own behind as they did surveys and inventories of resources.

14 posted on 08/08/2012 7:28:54 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Renfield

Yeah I hadn’t thought about the blackberries but I’m guessing there are none here either. I’ve got a full grown hickory tree in the yard losing all its leaves now.

There are no ground feeding insect eaters around much now because the ground is so dry that earthworms aren’t near the surface.


15 posted on 08/08/2012 7:31:02 AM PDT by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: newheart

yes but were they Fair Trade holly leaves?


16 posted on 08/08/2012 8:12:52 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Buckeye McFrog

LOL.
I doubt if holly is on the WTO’s list of things needing fair trade certification.

On the other hand, I don’t consider vomiting, extreme sweating and diarrhea to be a very “fair trade” just for a caffeine buzz.


17 posted on 08/08/2012 8:28:39 AM PDT by newheart (At what point does policy become treason?)
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To: zot; SeraphimApprentice; Hurtgen; Interesting Times

“Coffee & tea” ping.


18 posted on 08/08/2012 8:38:31 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: Renfield
This drink, a dark tea made from the roasted leaves of the Yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria) contains caffeine.

--------------------

A species name like that would sorta tip you off.

19 posted on 08/08/2012 8:43:00 AM PDT by freedomlover
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To: newheart

You don’t have to make it strong. With moderate brewing it’s pretty good.


20 posted on 08/08/2012 9:08:16 AM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. Very interesting.

And I didn’t know that the people in Chaco Canyon NM drank liquid chocolate which doesn’t grow anywhere near there.


21 posted on 08/08/2012 2:23:57 PM PDT by zot
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To: newheart
The vomiting has nothing to do with the tea. That comes from the emitics taken in the ceremony ~ including, no doubt, peyote freshly imported to Cahokia from West Texas ~ the very center of that cactus is currently occupied by the FLDS.

The tea is simply a tea, and the plant was misnamed due to a misunderstanding of the botonists.

22 posted on 08/08/2012 4:38:11 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


23 posted on 08/08/2012 5:14:38 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Renfield

———Cahokia was ultimately a failed experiment.-——

Cahokia existed longer than America has as a nation.

Cahokia is located smack dab in the middle of the country and is on the way to everywhere.

I was there last October and wish I cold have stayed much longer. When you see the exhibits in the museum and the massive earthen structures and the Woodhenge and grasp the shear size...... you will be amazed. Cahokia was larger and more populous than London and some other European cities at the time.

You should make an effort and reserve a day or so to go to Cahokia on the way somewhere else. there is a strong likelyhood that the Indians who lived near you traded with those at Cahokia. The influence was pervasive


24 posted on 08/08/2012 5:32:59 PM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... Present failure and impending death yield irrational action))
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To: bert

On our recent trip to England, we were in a group with a very nice couple who live just a few miles from Cahokia, and invited us up. We’ll go some time.


25 posted on 08/08/2012 6:18:20 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: bert
Cahokia didn't actually fail. The Indians in the immediate vicinity were among the first in the Americas to take to the horse. They then conquered the Great Plains ~ which the masses of buffalo had earlier made quite chancy for permanent human habitation.

That round feather contraption Cherokee and other Indian dancers wear on their behinds is called, in a variety of languages, a "Butterfly", and frequently it's called a "cho", a very specific term in many East Asian languages meaning "Butterfly".

It's the Cherokee and affiliated tribes who brought the horse East to Oklahoma and Cahokia ~ their tradition is a group said "Let's move ~ not enough game. So, they had a horse. The message came to the tribe ~ probably through their shaman ~ "Cut the horse loose" so they did and followed him to roughly Tulsa. From there they moved out everywhere else.

The arrival of the horse in Mid-America changed the lifestyle required of human beings to survive. They no longer had to grow corn. I've always suspected the Cherokee picked up the term "Cho" in Cahokia.

26 posted on 08/08/2012 6:52:32 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Renfield
I have one of these Holly trees in my yard.

Wonder how to make tea?

Yaupon Holly Tea Preparation

27 posted on 08/08/2012 7:17:25 PM PDT by blam
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To: Claud

That would fit a pattern. I wonder if human history and civilizations go back much farther than what we’ve found so far?


28 posted on 08/08/2012 7:38:53 PM PDT by 1010RD (First, Do No Harm)
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To: newheart
I don’t consider vomiting, extreme sweating and diarrhea to be a very “fair trade” just for a caffeine buzz.

I guess you didn't read the article. It wasn't for a caffeine buzz, it was a bodily purification ceremony. They knew exactly what they were doing.

29 posted on 08/08/2012 8:51:21 PM PDT by Bernard Marx
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To: Darksheare

You got some ‘splainin’ to do, bud.


30 posted on 08/08/2012 8:56:23 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Bernard Marx
Well, there you have it. I can read. But perhaps I am just of a different opinion. One man's vomiting, sweating and diarrhea is another man's purification ceremony. Whatever floats your boat.
31 posted on 08/08/2012 9:57:42 PM PDT by newheart (At what point does policy become treason?)
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To: Billthedrill

I swear it wasn’t me and I have never messed with the semi-linear-almost-never-altered flow of time.


32 posted on 08/09/2012 5:55:22 AM PDT by Darksheare (Try my coffee, first one's free.....)
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To: Renfield; SunkenCiv
For some reason that kind of “swirl” pattern was a favorite of pre-historic artists world wide.
33 posted on 08/09/2012 7:17:37 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: Darksheare

Those are your fingerprints on that pottery vessel. ‘Fess up.


34 posted on 08/09/2012 8:33:08 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

I deny the involvment of coffee zombies in the destruction of any ancient cultures.


35 posted on 08/09/2012 8:50:08 AM PDT by Darksheare (Try my coffee, first one's free.....)
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To: muawiyah

How did I live to be fifty, even having been fairly well educated and traveled almost the whole of the continent... And never even -once- hear of a place called Cahokia?


36 posted on 08/10/2012 5:38:58 AM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: Renfield
I have Yaupon growing all over my yard, some bushes have berries, some do not.
37 posted on 08/10/2012 5:47:24 AM PDT by Ditter
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To: Ramius

no idea ~ but you must not be from the Midwest!


38 posted on 08/10/2012 5:52:04 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: cripplecreek
I'm from South Jersey, and we have just the opposite of you.

A bumper crop of chokeberries, wild grapes including goosegrapes, wild cherry, huckleberries, teaberries, mushrooms and persimmons.

39 posted on 08/10/2012 6:04:34 AM PDT by mware (By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West)
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To: newheart

Actually I have read that the bark of the chokeberry bush was used by native americans to treat diarrhea.


40 posted on 08/10/2012 6:08:10 AM PDT by mware (By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West)
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To: muawiyah

Well, that would be true. Pacific Northwest instead. But... I’ve driven through and around the Midwest a few times. Somehow never heard of that place. Oh well... I have now.


41 posted on 08/10/2012 4:00:33 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: Renfield
Researchers find evidence of ritual use of ‘black drink’ at Cahokia

This stuff?


42 posted on 08/10/2012 4:03:33 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: dfwgator

I drank that crap in college at many a party, it will really mess you up. It has to be ICE cold to get it down.


43 posted on 08/10/2012 4:11:47 PM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: Ramius

We kinda’ changed the focus a bit and relocated the central avenues to what is now called St. Louis!


44 posted on 08/10/2012 4:14:39 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: dfwgator

LOL. You are naughty.


45 posted on 08/11/2012 4:01:36 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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