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Radiocarbon Dating of Atacama (Chile) Snuff Trays: An Update on Stylistic and Chronological Correlations

Pascale Richardin, Catherine Lavier, Helena Horta, Valentina Figueroa, Nicolás Lira


The Atacama region of Chile has the highest concentration of hallucinogenic paraphernalia from prehistoric cemeteries on the planet. These artifacts have been studied since the late 19th century, primarily from the perspective of stylistic classification, which has been used to infer their temporal assignation. However, direct chronological dating of the snuff trays has not been addressed until now, through an interdisciplinary study conducted in San Pedro de Atacama on the psychotropic paraphernalia collection of the Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Museo R.P. Gustavo Le Paige S.J. (IIAM), part of the Universidad Católica del Norte. In this study, samples were taken from eight snuff trays for radiocarbon dating and to develop a suitable procedure and protocol for sample extraction and handling of wooden archaeological pieces. This article provides the results of these activities by establishing the existence of a sequence of styles in the hallucinogenic paraphernalia that goes from the Middle to Late Intermediate period (about AD 300 to 1400), which shows that in this timespan there were two styles (Tiwanaku and local), and then both were replaced by a macroregional style.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18318


Radiocarbon dating; snuff trays; psychotropic paraphernalia; San Pedro de Atacama

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