Kara Rossi


student bio

Kara Rossi is an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Arts program with a concentration in Art History. She will be graduating May 2017 with plans to return to school for a master’s degree in the near future. Currently Rossi is an intern at the Emmanuel Gallery and had an internship position at the Dikeou Collection in 2015.

thesis description

Expand the Mind, Expand the Culture: Linking Hallucinogenic Iconography Between Pre-Columbian Civilizations

Abstract: Anthropological research has established that hallucinogenic substances were commonly used in Pre-Columbian cultures for shamanic ceremonies and everyday consumption. Artworks and artifacts provide physical evidence for not only how the peoples of these cultures ingested these substances, but also depict the visions that people experienced while taking the substances.

However, this existing body of research has yet to connect the practices of different Pre-Columbian cultures through these instruments and visual depictions of hallucinogenic use. Through formal analysis and iconographical study, methods rooted in art history, my paper will connect the imagery and instruments found between several different Pre-Columbian cultures. I will expand upon anthropological studies that discretely examine the role that psychotropic plants played in individual cultures by establishing connections between these cultures through specific objects, artifacts, and motifs.

Through this research, I argue that not only did these Pre-Columbian cultures experience similar hallucinations, but may have also depicted their experiences in ways that would have been understood by nearby cultures. The similarities found among the objects and practices of these cultures may suggest a form of trade or relationship. By recognizing visual and material evidence that link these cultures through art historical analysis, this study furthers our understanding of the impact hallucinogenic substances had on these cultures and points to possible connections between the cultures.