Coca: the Divine Leaf of Immortality
Archaeological evidence suggests that coca was used as early as 3000 BCE at Valdivia on the Santa Elena Peninsula in western Ecuador; on the coast of Peru, it was commonly grown by 2500 BCE. Lime pots and ceramic figurines depicting humans chewing coca have been found at virtually every major site from every era of pre-Columbian civilization on the coast, Nazca, Paracas, Moche, Chimu. The very word coca is derived not from Quechua but from Aymara, the language spoken by the descendants of the Tiwanaku, the empire that predated the Inca on the altiplano and in the basin of Titicaca by 500 years. The root word is khoka, a simple term meaning bush or tree, implying that the source of the sacred leaves is the plant of all plants. An active trade was established in the Bolivian highlands as early as 400CE, 1,000 years before the dramatic expansion of the Inca. Wade Davis explores the history and future of this divine plant.