Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that marijuana was already being smoked more than 2,500 years ago.
Found in Jirzankal in western China, more than thirty tombs higher than 3000 metres revealed, among other objects, small wooden braziers with what at first glance looked like burned stones inside. Subsequent chemical analyses revealed that in addition to the burned stones, there were also organic remnants that did not match the wood of the container and which turned out to be cannabinol (CBN), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabicyclol (CBL), all components of marijuana. As the burials date from 2,560 to 2,370 years ago, this is the oldest evidence of cannabis being smoked found to-date.
Everything seems to indicate that parts of the marijuana plant were placed in the brazier with stones that had been previously heated in the fire on top of them. The smoke that was produced rose and was inhaled without the use of any gadget (as it’s known that smoking-pipes were not present in this area until several centuries later). Because of its location in the graves, it’s believed that marijuana was used for ritualistic and mystical purposes carried out during burials.
This is the first reliable evidence of the use of marijuana as a psychoactive substance in ancient times. Evidence so far, however, references its use as food, raw material from which to obtain fibres with which to make cloth, and the extraction of its oil. It’s believed that marijuana was cultivated for all these different uses throughout the East Asian area no fewer than 3500 years ago.
In Turpan, the discovery of a tomb with almost a kilogram of cannabis seeds and powdered leaves demonstrates that marijuana was relatively popular for ritualistic and medicinal purposes during this period of history.
In this case – and surprisingly - we are talking about plants that are almost 3,000 years old and which have very high levels of CBD. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is the second-highest component of cannabis. It’s a cannabinoid that’s neither psychoactive nor toxic, doesn’t cause addiction, and is highly valued for its therapeutic properties.
The special atmospheric conditions in the area are believed to have caused this cannabis strain to have a higher concentration of CBD than usual, just as those found in Jirzankal had a greater presence of THC. Also known as tetrahydrocannabidol, THC is the main psychoactive component of cannabis and, unlike CBD, can alter perception and affect mood. It is as yet unknown if this particularly potent strain of marijuana was the result of cultivation or grew wild in the area.
Archaelogists have also found long stems placed on the remains of a man in another tomb in Jiayi, and their arrangement suggests they were used as a shroud. It consists of several plants – at least thirteen - of almost a metre in length. Arranged on the chest of the deceased and in surprisingly good condition, this is the first-known case of the plant used as a shroud.
All this evidence of the varied use of the hemp plant in ancient times, together with its presence in different cultures and subsequent scientific studies, only verifies classic accounts - including those of Herodotus of Halicarnassus - which portray in writing the presence and use of cannabis.
Source: EL PAÍS