Nearly TWO POUNDS of still-green plant material found in a
2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi Desert has just been identified as the
world's oldest marijuana stash, according to a paper in the latest issue
of the Journal of Experimental Botany.
A barrage of tests proves the marijuana
possessed potent psychoactive properties and casts doubt on the theory
that the ancients only grew the plant for hemp in order to make
clothing, rope and other objects.
They apparently were getting high too :)
Lead author Ethan Russo told Discovery News that the marijuana "is quite similar" to what's grown today.
"We know from both the chemical analysis and genetics that it could
produce THC (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase, the main psychoactive
chemical in the plant)," he explained, adding that no one could feel
its effects today, due to decomposition over the millennia.
Russo served as a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of
Sciences Institute of Botany while conducting the study. He and his
international team analyzed the cannabis, which was excavated at the
Yanghai Tombs near Turpan, China. It was found lightly pounded in a
wooden bowl in a leather basket near the head of a blue-eyed Caucasian
man who died when he was about 45.
"This individual was buried with an unusual number of high value,
rare items," Russo said, mentioning that the objects included a make-up
bag, bridles, pots, archery equipment and a kongou harp. The researchers
believe the individual was a shaman from the Gushi people, who spoke a
now-extinct language called Tocharian that was similar to Celtic.
Scientists originally thought the plant material in the grave was
coriander, but microscopic botanical analysis of the bowl contents,
along with genetic testing, revealed that it was cannabis.
size of seeds mixed in with the leaves, along with their color and
other characteristics, indicate the marijuana came from a cultivated
strain. Before the burial, someone had carefully picked out all of the
male plant parts, which are less psychoactive, so Russo and his team
believe there is little doubt as to why the cannabis was grown.
What is in question, however, is how the marijuana was administered,
since no pipes or other objects associated with smoking were found in
"Perhaps it was ingested orally," Russo said. "It might also have
been fumigated, as the Scythian tribes to the north did subsequently."
Although other cultures in the area used hemp to make various goods
as early as 7,000 years ago, additional tomb finds indicate the Gushi
fabricated their clothing from wool and made their rope out of reed
fibers. The scientists are unsure if the marijuana was grown for more
spiritual or medical purposes, but it's evident that the blue-eyed man
was buried with a lot of it.
"As with other grave goods, it was traditional to place items needed
for the afterlife in the tomb with the departed," Russo said.
The ancient marijuana stash is now housed at Turpan Museum in China.
In the future, Russo hopes to conduct further research at the Yanghai
site, which has 2,000 other tombs.
|Liveleak on Facebook|