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People Got High on Cannabis at Funerals 2500 Years Ago

People Got High on Cannabis at Funerals 2500 Years Ago

But before you imagine ancient stoners passing around a primitive bong, the reality was probably quite different, archaeologists report in the journal Science Advances today.

The evidence was found on 10 wooden braziers containing stones with burn marks that were discovered in eight tombs at the Jirzankal Cemetery site in the Pamir Mountains in China's Xinjiang region, scientists said on Wednesday.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found some unexpected answers while studying incense burners from ancient burials.

A chemical analysis of the cannabis found in the cemetery showed that the remains were high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and hence it is proof that this was used for its psychoactive properties.

Researchers have discovered "the earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence for ritual cannabis smoking".

Herodotus, the veteran Greek historian, wrote in about 440 BC of of us, it looks in the Caspian dwelling, inhaling marijuana smoke in a tent as the plant became burned in a bowl with hot stones.

The global team thinks the people here were deliberately breeding plants with higher levels of THC and burning them as part of funerary rituals.

"We can start to piece together an image of funerary rites that included flames, rhythmic music, and hallucinogen smoke, all meant to guide people into an altered state of mind", the scientists write in the study.

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Funerals in ancient China were dope-literally. The skeletons of individuals buried at the site have not been examined in detail, but some have holes in their skulls and what appear to be fatal cuts and breaks to their bones, raising the possibility that at least some of the dead were sacrificed.

Whether cannabis also had other uses in society is unclear, though it seems likely that the plant's ability to treat a variety of illnesses and symptoms was recognised early on.

"Given the modern political climate surrounding the use of cannabis, archaeological studies like this can help us to understand the origins of contemporary cultural practice and belief structures", Boivin said.

"The debate over early cannabis use in Central Asia has been lively and filled with speculation", said Robert Spengler, a co-author on the paper who is also at the Max Planck Institute. This non-psychedelic cannabis, which we now refer to as hemp, was used for clothing, food, and medicine.

And even when it was preserved it's still hard to work out what the tiny fragmentary plant remains were used for.

Many anti-drug campaigners like to portray drug use as a scourge of the modern age - but people were actually smoking cannabis in the first millennium BC. "It has uses as a medicine, as food, as fibre", Dr Crowther said. It was mostly made of cannabinol, a chemical known to show up in the air when THC-rich cannabis is burned.

Some wild strains of cannabis at high altitudes are known to sometimes produce a higher THC content, leading historians to speculate whether peoples of the Pamir Plateau settled there for its accessibility to the heady plant. "Our study implies that knowledge of cannabis smoking and specific high-chemical-producing varieties of the cannabis plant were among the cultural traditions that spread along these exchange routes".


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