Ancient Chinese inhaled cannabis fumes 2500 years ago, study finds

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Cannabis is one of the older plants known to Man and has been around for a very long time. The most recent evidence points to it evolving somewhere along the Tibetan Plateau, around 28 million years ago. In the course of World History, experts believe that cannabis has been used for medical, recreational and ritualistic purposes for thousands of years in most of the ancient civilizations everywhere around the planet.

According to David Nutt, professor of Neuropsychopharmacology in the Imperial College of London and drugs expert, there is evidence of it being used in 3000-year-old tombs in Egypt and Siberia.

Now, according to new archaeological evidence, researchers believe it was also used as a part of tomb rituals in ancient China, at least 2500 years ago.

The archaeological team that made the discovery, comprised of scientists from Beijing, Germany, and Australia, reported this evidence in a study published in the scientific journal Science Advances.

They found traces of cannabis in the Western Chinese region of the Pamir Mountains, at Jirzankal cemetery. Scientists believe that the Sogdian people used wooden braziers to burn cannabis at enclosed elite burial sites, allowing all the attending people to inhale the fumes.

The current theory is that the rituals were meant for everyone to enjoy the psychoactive effects of cannabis, but also to mask the smell of decaying corpses.

According to the research team, the THC content of the plants was higher than usual for cannabis plants in that time but lower than it is normally today. Experts believe that cannabis which was grown at higher altitudes, as is the case for the Pamir Mountains, contained much more THC than those that grew at lower altitudes. Nonetheless, ancient cannabis plants didn’t have as much THC as they do today. Robert Spengler, one of the researchers, believes that humans may have intervened in the cannabis breeding process throughout History, purposely creating strains with higher THC contents.

It is thought that cannabis was traded along the ancient Silk Road, a vast network of trade routes that connected the West and the East in the past, and that largely contributed to the development of all modern civilizations, including those in Asia and Europe.

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