Monday, February 8, 2010

Datura Pottery

The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado has an unusual spiky ancient pottery piece that resembles the seed pod of the toxic Datura plant.

The Datura plant, or Jimson Weed, grows in sandy washes and along roadsides in the Four Corners area. It features a long white tubular flower and every part of the plant is toxic. The flower relies on Sphinx Moths (or Hawkmoths) for pollination. Most parts of the plant contain alkaloid poisons that inhibit the neurotransmitter used by the parasympathetic nervous system.

These drugs relax the muscles and glands controlled by the nervous system and find use as anesthetics and anti spasmodics, but if overdosed can cause delusions and paralysis. The web site has several good pictures of this plant that were taken in McElmo Canyon west of Cortez.

The Aztec Ruins Museum in Aztec, New Mexico also has a spiky pottery piece. I hadn’t noticed these pieces in my previous visits to these museums, but then noticed them both in the same week.

Many North American groups steeped the leaves to make a tea or chewed the seeds presumably for the hallucinogenic effects. A pottery image has been found showing a human figure with a Datura seed pod body and Sphinx Moth images have been found. Researcher Paul T. Kay has a web site that explores Datura related images in depth and has examples of Datura related images from across the southwest.