They got high at funerals 2500 years ago

It remains unclear exactly what objective this unusual adornment served, but Merlin tells The New York Times" Jan Hoffman that in conjunction with the Jirzankal finds, the burial identifies cannabis "as a "plant of the gods.'" Eventually, Merlin says, "People recognized for it to be effective, you had to cook or burn it".

The research article states that the "cannabinoids detected on the wooden braziers are mainly CBN, indicating that the burned cannabis plants expressed higher THC levels than typically found in wild plants".

It's known cannabis was grown in east Asia for the oily seeds and fibre from at least 4000 BC. "Our study implies that knowledge of cannabis smoking and specific high-THC varieties of the cannabis plant were among the cultural traditions that spread along Silk Road exchange routes", says coauthor Robert Spengler in a June 11 news conference, according to Science News. They had run a chemical analysis of a wooden brazier excavated from a burial tomb site in the Pamir mountains of Central Asia, dating back to sometime around 500 BCE.

"Ancient people chose the cannabis with a high content of THC, so we think they knew the effects", Yimin Yang, a researcher at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, told The Register on Wednesday. Previous digs uncovered plant fossils and seeds in the same region from the same time period, but physical evidence of smoking up in ancient cultures has been limited until now, with little known about how and when the cannabis plant evolved to produce its psychoactive qualities.

The authors extracted organic material from the wooden brazier fragments and burned stones and analyzed it with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

To their surprise, the chemical signature was an exact match to cannabis.

The findings tally with other evidence for the presence of cannabis from burials further north, in the Xinjiang region of China and in the Altai Mountains of Russian Federation. So people roaming the high mountainous regions may have discovered more potent wild plants there, and initiated a new kind of use of the plant. One theory is cannabis plants will produce greater quantities of active compounds in response to increased UV radiation and other stressors related to growing at higher elevations.

The history of ancient drug use has long intrigued scholars. The timing for the use of a different cannabis subspecies as a drug has been a contentious issue among scientists, but ancient texts and recent archeological discoveries have shed light on the matter. Objects found in the burials also appear to link this population to peoples further west in the mountain foothills of Inner Asia. The findings, published this week in the journal Science Advances, suggest settlements in Central Asia played an important role in the development of Eurasian trade. But it's possible that the site and cannabis was used for a variety of non-sacrificial funeral rituals, too. 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.

The cemetery, reaching across three terraces at a rocky and arid site up to 10,105 feet (3,080 meters) above sea level, includes black and white stone strips created on the landscape using pebbles, marking the tomb surfaces, and circular mounds with rings of stones underneath.

People discovered the narcotic properties of cannabis are still two and a half thousand years ago, found researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Institute of natural Sciences max Planck.

  • Jon Douglas