These Hidden Passages May Have Been Used For Ancient Psychedelic Rituals

In the ancient Chavn de Huántar temple complex in the Peruvian Andes, archaeologists discovered a network of secret corridors and galleries. The network of rooms and galleries, according to the experts, may have been employed in religious ceremonies using hallucinogenic chemicals.

According to John Rick, an archaeologist at Stanford University who is leading the research, this is the first time in about 3,000 years that these specific hidden structures have been explored. Some of the isolated, dark chambers may have been used for sensory deprivation, while some of the larger galleries appear to have been used for idol worship.

"These are stone-lined passageways, corridors, rooms, cells, and niches, big enough to walk through, roofed with stone beams," he described. "The galleries have a diversity of function from what we can tell, [but] all are related to ritual activity."

Rick clarified that since they hadn't been excavated into the ground, the recently found passages weren't exactly tunnels. Instead, they were purposefully created within the massive temple complex when it was being developed between 1200 and 200 BCE.

According to him, several of the chambers appear to have been once-surface rooms that were kept open for a while by sturdy roofs and long entrance tunnels. Up to 300 feet (100 meters) long, the passages are twisted, include right-angled bends, and have numerous floors.Over the course of 15 years of excavations, Chavn de Huántar has already yielded 36 galleries and the tunnels that go with them, but this most recent network was discovered only a few years ago and was not investigated until this year, according to Rick.

Ancient temple

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the enigmatic Chavn people, who lived in what is now Peru between 3,200 and 2,200 years ago, are thought to have had a sacred center at Chavn de Huántar.

The complex is the largest of three Chavn religious structures discovered thus far, and is located around 270 miles (430 km) north of Lima in a mountain valley at a height of more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

The most recent tunnels, which are located deep within the complex, were discovered in 2019 and originally investigated with a remote-controlled camera, according to Rick.

COVID-19restrictions prevented further exploration until May of this year, when archaeologists were able to enter the passageways for the first time since they were apparently sealed off about 3,000 years ago, he claimed.

The tunnels led to a main gallery with two substantial ritual stone bowls, one of which was adorned with the head and wings of a condor, a large Andean bird of prey, as a symbol. The outcome is that the gallery is now known as the Condor Gallery.

"We have now documented the gallery, but have much left to explore," Rick added. "Major excavations will start next year."

He continued that the gallery looked to be older and was deeper than the majority of those previously discovered. "The Condor Gallery shows many lines of evidence pointing at an age of at least 3,000 years since the gallery was built, and probably since it was formally sealed," according to Rick.

Two stone bowls, one with Andean Condor features, found in a gallery. (John Rick/Programa Chavin)

Mysterious religion

Although little is known about Chav beliefs, it appears that the recently discovered corridors and gallery, like other chambers previously excavated at Chavn de Huántar, had a religious purpose."The galleries have a diversity of function, from what we can tell," according to him.

They feature a number of tiny compartments that, according to him, may have been utilized for sensory deprivation or ritual disorientation through sight, sound, and touch.

He said that other rooms were used for worship or to store ritual tools, such as the well-known beautiful trumpets made of enormous conch shells that were recovered in Chaván de Huántar in vast quantities and appear to have been utilized in rituals there.

While other galleries and tunnels have been uncovered in religious buildings of a comparable date in the Andes, they are often considerably smaller and simpler—"nothing like the profusion found in Chavn," Rick stated.

"The most similar passages in the New World might be the caves beneath the pyramids of Teotihuacan in central Mexico, but the differences are still glaring," according to Rick. "Chavín is effectively unique in the number and nature of galleries."

The two bowls in the Condor Gallery were likely used as mortars to grind up psychedelic drugs for religious ceremonies, according to anthropologist and archaeologist Richard Burger of Yale University, who specializes in South American prehistory and was not involved in the most recent research at Chaván de Huántar.

"There was a tradition in Chavín to inhale hallucinogenic snuff," according to him. He has claimed that it came from the vilca tree's seed pods, which are said to contain the potent psychedelic dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.

The newest tunnels offer an extremely uncommon chance for archaeologists to explore the pathways with modern methodologies, according to University of Florida anthropologist Dan Contreras, who wasn't involved in the discovery but collaborated with Rick at Chavn de Huántar.

The complex of Chavn's temples had a number of locked tunnels, but "this is one that has remained entirely unknown," he added. "Until now, not only had it not been entered, but nobody even knew that it was there."

Many of the passages appear to have been close to the surface at first, but when the complex was raised over the years, he added, they were shut up. One of the most well-known features is a gallery with a monolithic rock close to the middle.

"There is a compelling argument that this was originally an open plaza," according to Contreras. "Then, as the temple was built around it, they kept access to what had been a plaza, but it was now an entirely enclosed space."

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.