ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. archaeologists examining Mayan containers say they've identified nicotine traces in a flask, the first physical evidence of tobacco use by ancient Mayans.
The study published in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry said the residue was identified in a flask marked with Mayan hieroglyphics reading, "y-otoot 'u-may," ("the home of its/his/her tobacco.")
This is only the second case to confirm the text on the exterior of a Mayan vessel corresponds to its ancient use, researchers said.
"Investigation of food items consumed by ancient people offers insight into the traditions and customs of a particular civilization," Jennifer Loughmiller-Newman from the University at Albany in New York said. "Textual evidence written on pottery is often an indicator of contents or of an intended purpose, however actual usage of a container could be altered or falsely represented."
Nicotine -- the signature alkaloid in tobacco -- was identified as the major component of the extracts found in the flask, determined as being made in southern Campeche, Mexico around A.D. 700.
"Our study provides rare evidence of the intended use of an ancient container," Dmitri Zagorevski from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York said.
Before this, the only existing evidence showing a Mayan vessel to have the same content as indicated by hieroglyphic text was the identification of theobromine, an alkaloid found in cacao, more than 20 years ago, researchers said.