Evidence in an ancient burial site in China shows that cannabis has been used for healing and ritualist practices thousands of years go – far longer than originally believed.
Residue of weed was found in tombs deep in the Pamir mountains of western China by archaeologists and chemists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing in several recent studies.
About 70 artifacts were collected and analyzed using a method known as chromatography-mass spectrometry. Through this procedure cannabis seeds were found in items such as glass beads, harps, wooden bowls and much more.
The peculiar thing about the seeds however, is that instead of being low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is more commonly found in Central Asian countries, these levels were quite high and lead researchers to ask what were people using such high levels of THC for in these ritualist practices.
Cannabis stems and seeds have been previously found in other burial sites across Eurasia, there is evidence a weed usage stemming as far back as fifth century B.C. in ancient Greece. Evidence also points to the use of cannabis dating centuries ago in Russia
However, the Pamir site in particular provides evidence that there was more conscious understanding of cannabis potency and spiritual connection, when enacting ritualistic practices including human sacrifice and connecting with the dead.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Mark Merlin, cannabis historian and professor botany said, “the fact that strongly psychoactive ancient residue has been documented in laboratory testing is a new key finding.”
Merlin also dictated that high level THC cannabis may have been used as a way for the promote communication between the body and the spirt (afterlife).
“I think the evidence from the Pamir site connects cannabis as a ‘plant of the gods,’” he said.
There is evidence that ancient mourners created smoke by laying cannabis plants, most likely stems, and parts of the plant that were nonflowering, in hot stones in wooden braziers- vessels for flaming objects. This leads researchers to believe the cannabis was cultivated and that people who participated in these practices were actively looking for a stronger more potent plant, for a stronger high.
Compiled by Olivia Boyd, WI Intern