Researchers discover evidence of 2500-year-old cannabis consumers

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Researchers have discovered "the earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence for ritual cannabis smoking,” writes Neil Bonner.

This according to the abstract of a new research article called 'The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs.' According to the article, ten wooden braziers were exhumed from tombs in the 2500-year-old Jirzankal Cemetery on the Pamir Plateau in China.

They "contained small stones that had been exposed to high heat, and archaeologists identified them as braziers for burning incense or other plant matter,” explains Michelle Z. Donahue at National Geographic

Samples collected by the researchers found the chemical signature for CBN (aka cannabinol) inside the braziers, a lesser-known cannabinoid that is often found in old cannabis. The reason? THC degrades and oxidizes to CBN if exposed to the elements.

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."

That's right. This cannabis was potent stuff.

The takeaway from all this? "These results suggest that the cannabis burned by those using the Jirzankal Cemetery might have been physiologically altered through hybridization (domestication) or a poorly understood expression of genetic plasticity in the plants."

But the most interesting detail might be the fact that these ancient cannabis consumers took Snoop Dogg's advice from 'Still D.R.E.' - "no seeds, no stems, no sticks!" As the article explains: "The lack of seeds in the burners may suggest that nonfloral plant parts were burned, or it may suggest that seeds were removed from the floral structures because they do not contain the desired secondary compounds."

There's much more fascinating material to be found at Science Advance, who published the article. In previous years, other archaeological finds involving cannabis have been found in China, including a cannabis burial shroud made of desiccated plants, and wooden bowls that appear to have been used to grind down the plant. 

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