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Coca leaves in the context of the central Andean Wari state

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coca leaves, Ayacucho Valley, Peru, archaeological sites

Abstract (summary)

Coca, of the genus Erythroxylum (family Erythroxylacea) is a stimulant and painkiller that at the time of the Spanish conquest was widely used in the Central Andean region. Despite its undisputed position within the Andean society in general, archaeologically coca remains little investigated, particularly in the Peruvian central highland region. Consequently, it is uncertain, for instance, when coca leaves began being used in this region. This uncertainty is largely due to the difficulties of finding coca leaves at highland archaeological sites. New evidence coming from the northern part of Ayacucho Valley in the Peruvian central highlands which consists of several coca leaves represents the first direct proof for the presence of coca leaves in an archaeological context that, based on ceramic stylistic grounds, dates sometime between the end of the Early Intermediate Period (ca. 1 – 550 CE) and the beginning of the Middle Horizon Period (ca. 550 – 1100 CE). This unprecedented finding demonstrates that as early as the Middle Horizon, therefore several centuries before the rise of the Inka State, coca leaves were already used in the Peruvian central highlands. This paper presents the new evidence and discusses its immediate implications.

Publication Information

Valdez, Lidio M. and Juan Taboada. "Coca Leaves in the Context of the Central Andean Wari State." In Trading Spaces: The Archaeology of Interaction, Migration and Exchange. Proceedings of the 46th Annual Chacmool Archaeology Conference, edited by Margaret Patton and Jessica Manion, pp. 136-151. Calgary, AB: Chacmool Archaeology Association, 2016.



Presented on November 07–11, 2013 at the 46th Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference, held at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta.

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