Seeing Shamanic Practices in Ancient Peruvian Pottery

Lecture | October 24 | 6-7:30 p.m. |  Hearst Museum of Anthropology

 Cathy Costin, California State University, Northridge

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

The Lounge Lecture series, hosted alongside the current exhibit Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances, provides an opportunity to explore contemporary subjects related to mind-altering substances with leading experts in their fields.

This October, join archaeologist Dr. Cathy Costin who in this lecture will make the argument that a large proportion of the images in early Pre-Columbian Peruvian Pottery are related to the consumption of entheogenic and therapeutic substances. In addition to the easily recognized San Pedro cactus – a primary source of mescaline – many of the objects identified as “fruits” or “gourds” are in fact depictions of Brugmansia, the source of a powerful psychotropic alkaloid. She will also suggest that many two- and three-dimensional images allude to the mental and bodily experiences of those who consumed hallucination-inducing substances. In addition, she will make the argument that most of the two dimensional motifs – often rendered in faint, post-fire incisions and discernable only to those in close proximity to the vessels – record tightly-controlled esoteric knowledge concerning the preparation and ingestion of psychoactive substances. Finally, Costin will propose that many seemingly mundane things seen in the art are used in the preparation and use of mind-altering substances. Overall, her research suggests that most of what is depicted on these ceramics is linked to entheogenic shamanic practice.

About the Speaker

Cathy Lynne Costin is a Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge. She is an archaeologist who works in western South America. Her research interests include ceramic and textile production; representations of power and identity in pre-Columbian art; the gendered division of labor in pre-Columbian societies; and Inka imperial strategies.


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