Ancient Wooden Pots from China Contain Cannabis Residue

The tomb in western China

Earliest known signs of cannabis smoking unearthed in China

Cannabis smoking began in China at least 2,500 years ago, according to new research.

Archaeologists from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences were excavating in the high mountainous regions of eastern China when they discovered the incense burners at a cemetery called Jirzankal, where people buried loved ones in tombs covered with circular mounds, stone rings and striped patterns using black and white stones.

Hashish, one in every of the most widely historical psychoactive capsules on this planet at the fresh time, became in the initiating historical in veteran East Asia as an oil seed slit and in making hemp textiles and rope.

The data supports the idea that marijuana was probably traded and dispersed across the mountainous regions to create strains with higher THC levels than typically found in wild cannabis plants around 500 BCE.

An worldwide team of researchers analyzed the interiors and contents of 10 wooden bowls excavated from burials at Jirzankal Cemetery, a site on the Pamir Plateau in what is now far-western China.

The researchers do not have enough evidence to confirm if the plants were gathered from a certain location or where they were grown, but they can say that a lot of people were smoking it.

It's the earliest clear evidence of cannabis being used for its psychoactive properties.

The team extracted organic material from 10 wooden fragments and four burned stones and analyzed the objects using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which separates chemicals so they can be more easily identified.

Much to their surprise, these extracts provided an exact match for cannabis' chemical structure.

This new data, published in the journal Science Advances, corroborates other evidence for cannabis from burials further north-in the Xinjiang region of China and the Altai Mountains of Russian Federation.

"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. Moreover, the signature indicated a higher level of THC than is normally found in wild cannabis plants.

"We know very little about these people beyond what has been recovered from this cemetery", Spengler said, though he noted that some of the artifacts such as glass beads, metal items and ceramics resemble those from further west in Central Asia, suggesting cultural links.

"This study is important for understanding the antiquity of drug use", Spengler said, adding that evidence now points to a wide geographic distribution of marijuana use in the ancient world. It is still unclear whether the people buried at Jirzankal actively cultivated cannabis or simply sought out higher THC-producing plants.

In 440 B.C., Herodotus, an ancient Greek writer popularly dubbed the "father of history", included an account of ritualistic cannabis use in Book IV of his acclaimed Histories. The marijuana was not smoked in the same way as today - in pipes or rolled in cigarettes - but rather inhaled while burning in the braziers. Yimin Yang, researcher at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing observes, "This study of ancient cannabis use helps us understand early human cultural practices, and speaks to the intuitive human awareness of natural phytochemicals in plants".

Wooden pieces and burnt stones in the tombs in western China.

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