Cannabis use in the first millennium BC
Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute analyzed the wooden bowls with the stones contained in them found in the Jirzankal Cemetery, which is located in the Pamir mountain range. The artifacts are over two thousand years old and contain traces of hemp psychoactive substances.
The debate on the possible use of marijuana as a drug by ancient people has continued in the scientific community for a long time. The Histories of Herodotus, written in the fifth century BC, was the only indirect evidence. However, there is no direct mention of cannabis. Findings on Jirzankal Cemetery have changed the circumstances.
The cemetery is located in the area of the Pamir mountain system, which lies mainly on the territory of Tajikistan, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Archaeologists have explored about 40 ancient tombs in the southeast region. Ten wooden censers with stones were found there.
First, the researchers conducted a radiocarbon analysis of the artifacts and found that their age is about 2.5 thousand years. They then analyzed the chemical composition of the inner surface of the censers and found cannabinol, a weak psychoactive cannabinoid in nine of them. The authors assume that the cannabis was burned by placing hot stones inside.
This work shows that people living in this region burned the plant in wooden censers, and this ritual was probably part of the funeral ceremony. Also, the authors point to high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, which is not usually found in wild plants. It follows that the ceremonial cannabis could have been cultivated, but there is no actual evidence of that.
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