1 March 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Ancient Egyptian cult drank a trippy mix of drugs, human blood, and bodily fluids

Researchers have identified some of the components of found in an ancient Bes vase dating back to Ptolemaic era Egypt.

The potent mind-altering concoction that was once housed in the second-century BC vase was revealed after a thorough chemical analysis by researchers, who would have consumed it to induce an altered state of consciousness.

According to a paper posted to the pre-print server Research Square, the roughly 2,200-year-old vessel — which is in the shape of the head of the god Bes — contained a number of psychoactive compounds, including fermented fruit, the plant Peganum harmala (also known as Syrian rue), and Nymphaea caerulea (commonly called blue water lilly). Syrian rue, in particular, is known to be hallucinogenic in nature.

“The seeds of [Syrian rue] produce high quantities of the alkaloids harmine and harmaline, which induce dream-like visions,” the researchers wrote.

The ancient cocktail also contained traces of a fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruit, honey, and bodily fluids in addition to these psychotropic or hallucinogenic substances. While the addition of human fluids suggests a magical or ritual purpose, the first two of these ingredients may have been added to make the mixture more palatable or digestible.

Ancient Egyptian Bes vase housed at Tampa Museum of Art in Florida (a). Other Bes vases are from other collections (b, c, d).  (Tanasi et. al / CC BY 4.0 )
Ancient Egyptian Bes vase housed at Tampa Museum of Art in Florida (a). Other Bes vases are from other collections (b, c, d). (Tanasi et. al / CC BY 4.0 )

The authors of the study believe that the magic potion contained in the ancient Bes vase was consumed by members of an ancient cult active in Ptolemaic Egypt that worshiped a part-feline/part-human deity known as Bes.

“As the Bes figure was revered as a protective genius, it might be assumed that the liquid drunk from these mugs was considered beneficent,” they said.

Members of the Bes cult appeared to frequently consume magical potions. The researchers involved in this specific study knew where the vase they studied had come from because the ceramic drinking mugs used in the cult were consistently adorned with the head of Bes.

Researchers examined the vessel, which is part of the Tampa Museum of Art collection. They were astounded by what they discovered after using a variety of high-tech techniques to identify the mixture of ingredients in the residues. Apparently, members of the cult would contribute their own fluids to the mix, likely as part of a ritual.

The study offers a fascinating look into the religious practices of this late period of ancient Egyptian history, even though it hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. Of course, it is unclear what function the vessel’s contents served or what the significance of the object might have been.

Related Articles

Knights-era painting found behind bricked-up arch at Museum of Archaeology in Malta

30 November 2021

30 November 2021

A newly found Knights-era painting hidden behind a bricked-up arch at the Museum of Archaeology might give insight into the...

Ancient coins surface with Lake Iznik’s withdrawal in Türkiye

2 May 2023

2 May 2023

With the withdrawal of Lake Iznik in the northwest of Türkiye, the ancient coins found at the bottom of the...

History of 8,500 years waits for a museum

19 June 2023

19 June 2023

The conservation process of the Yenikapı shipwrecks, which were discovered during the Marmaray project and considered the largest collection of...

Tomb of an Urartian buried with his dog, cattle, sheep, and 4 horses unearthed

6 September 2021

6 September 2021

In ancient times, the dead were buried with their living and non-living things. The offerings placed as dead gifts varied...

A surprising discovery in Lublin countryside! Ancient figurines of Egyptian and Roman gods found

6 May 2023

6 May 2023

Two ancient figurines depicting the Egyptian god Osiris and a bust of the Roman god Bacchus were found in the...

2,300 Years Old First Complete Ancient Celtic Village and Roman Settlement Discovered in Munich

22 October 2023

22 October 2023

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Celtic village and evidence of a smaller Roman settlement in Munich, Germany. The 2,300-year-old Celtic...

Unusual construction material may be linked to the Tower of Babel

5 November 2021

5 November 2021

Archaeologists have recently discovered bitumen and mortar plastered onto a brick dating back to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. This...

INAH archaeologists discovered a nose ornament made of human bone in Mexico

31 August 2023

31 August 2023

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a nose ornament made of human bone in...

Researchers find 3,000-year-old shark attack victim in Japan

24 June 2021

24 June 2021

In a paper published today, Oxford-led researchers reveal their discovery of a 3,000-year-old victim—attacked by a shark in the Seto...

Spanish Stonehenge re-emerges from the ‘Valdecañas reservoir’

19 August 2022

19 August 2022

Submerged by the Valdecañas reservoir for decades, the Guadalperal dolmen has been fully exposed as it was two summers ago....

The inhabitants of Pınarbaşı Höyük in central Turkey may be the ancestors of the Boncuklu Höyük and Çatalhöyük neolithic human communities

27 July 2022

27 July 2022

The Department of Excavations and Researchs, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey, attracted...

Oil drilling uncovers a 2,000-year-old cemetery with giant Urn-like tombs in Southwest Iran

16 July 2022

16 July 2022

An ancient cemetery with urn-like tombs was discovered in Ahvaz, the capital city of Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran. The...

Scientists recreate Stone Age cave lighting

17 June 2021

17 June 2021

For early hunter-gatherer societies that were lucky enough to live near caves, these natural underground homes provided ideal protection from...

Bronze Age artifacts discovered near the residence of ‘Iran’s Napoleon’

6 July 2021

6 July 2021

Archaeologists in Iran have discovered a plethora of artifacts and damaged structures near a former residence of Nader Shah, dubbed...

Early Imperial cemetery in Nîmes, in the south of France

4 October 2022

4 October 2022

Inrap archaeologists excavating at Nîmes in southern France have uncovered a cemetery dating to the first to second centuries AD...