Ancient Cannabis Plants and Incense Burners Discovered in China
Update: On June 12, 2019, archaeologists reported a new and striking discovery in the Xinjiang province: 10 wooden incense burners, known as braziers, with cannabis residues inside eight tombs in the Jirzankal Cemetery dating back to 500 BC, which is the same time period when the previous plant material was found. Tests determined that there were higher levels of THC than in the past, leading to the speculation that the cannabis was used (but not literally smoked) for intoxication purposes.
“We can start to piece together an image of funerary rites that included flames, rhythmic music and hallucinogen smoke, all intended to guide people into an altered state of mind,” the researchers write in the study published in the journal Science Advances.
In 2016, Archeologists found 13 well-preserved cannabis plants at a 2,500-year-old burial site in Western China. Writing in the journal Economic Botany, researchers described the discovery as “an extraordinary cache of ancient, well-preserved Cannabis” that “appear to have been locally produced and purposefully arranged and used as a burial shroud.” The plants were displayed on top of a corpse in a tomb at Jiayi cemetery in Turpan in the Xinjiang region.
In 2008, archeologists discovered another cache of ancient cannabis in the area in the grave of a shaman. Xinjiang has a long history with cannabis—from the ancient Subeixi culture to the Muslim Uyghurs who continue their tradition of hash-making to this day.
The plant finding marks the first time complete cannabis material from this time period has been discovered. It also confirms what archeologists have long suspected: that cannabis was cultivated in the region at the time. And like previous parts of ancient cannabis plants that were found, “researchers suspect that this marijuana was grown and harvested for its psychoactive resin,” reports National Geographic.
While cannabis plants have many uses, scientists think that this ancient population cultivated cannabis for its psychoactive properties since they haven’t located any hemp textiles in the area, and the seeds are too small to serve as a source of nutrition. The flowers of the discovered plants were resinous and hairy, and so well preserved that the trichomes were still visible.
Other archeological evidence from Eurasia had residue of opium and cannabis that were apparently used for “drug-fueled rituals.” Ancient Chinese medicine texts also contained references to the psychoactivity of cannabis and other plants, Freedom Leaf previously reported.
Earlier in 2016, a review of archeological records suggested that cannabis may have played a crucial role in human migration patterns 5,000 years ago. The early migrants’ routes eventually evolved into the Silk Road. The research suggests that the cannabis trade may have helped fuel this ancient migration that contributed to the rise of European and Asian civilizations.
“The two things happened at the same time,” reports the Influence. “The Yamnaya spread out across the continent, and cannabis cultivation flourished in their wake.”
Another recent study found that cannabis and hallucinogenic mushrooms may have been used in ancient surgeries as a painkiller.
This article was originally posted on October 6, 2016.
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