Friday, 10 August 2012

Vomit Drink

Caffeine-loaded black drinks apparently dominated the heartland of America earlier than once thought — a beverage neither coffee nor cola, but instead brewed from holly leaves, researchers say. Made from the roasted leaves of the Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) that grew more than 300 miles away, researchers found evidence that inhabitants at Cahokia, "North America's first city," were enjoying caffeinated tea beverages some 700 to 900 years ago. Cahokia existed near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers from about 1050 to 1350 in what is now in St. Louis, East St. Louis and the surrounding five counties, and inspired short-lived settlements as far away as Wisconsin. The core of this society, Greater Cahokia, had as many as 50,000 residents in its heyday living amidst earthen mounds, some more than 100 feet (30 meters) in height, making it the largest prehistoric North American settlement north of Mexico.
The “black drink” was used by different groups for different purposes, but according to researchers it was a key component in a purification ritual before battle or other important events. The drink had as much as six times the amount of caffeine as a strong cup of coffee, which induced sweating. Quick consumption of the hot beverage allowed men to vomit, an important part of the purification ritual according to researchers.
The ancient people may have downed the brew before ritual vomiting as part of purification ceremonies, the scientists added. “We’re not sure when Native Americans stopped using black drink,” researcher Thomas Emerson, the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, told LiveScience. “I think its use went more into the closet, due to pressure from Europeans to drop pagan practices.”
For many tribes of Native Americans, the black drink was a key component of purification rituals before war parties, religious ceremonies, important political councils or other important events. Rapid consumption of large quantities of the hot drink preceded ritual vomiting as part of the purification rituals. People in South America continue to make drinks from varieties of holly, such as yerba maté and té o' maté, albeit in more relaxed contexts.
"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 city held together for as long as it did has remained a mystery.