For some time now, archaeologists have been exploring the history of marijuana, in particular in Eurasian areas. While many discoveries have been found over the years, a recent find has been making headlines due to its interesting nature. A group of archaeologists led by Hongen Jiang with the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences uncovered 13 whole marijuana plants laid out as a shroud over a man who was buried approximately 2,500 years ago. The plant’s flowers had been trimmed off but the rest of the plants covered the deceased man from the roots, which started below his hips, to the tips, which reached up towards his head.
The Cannabis Shroud
This is the first time in the history of marijuana that plants have been used as a shroud. The plants also seem to be locally grown in China’s northwestern region of Turpan Basin. The man appears to be approximately 35 years old with Caucasian features. The area was known at the time as Gushi Kingdom and it was a desert oasis that was an important stop along the Silk Road. The man rested on a wooden pallet with a reed pillow placed below his head while the marijuana plants were laid out over him. Powdered leaves and seeds have been found in this region before as well as close by to the west in Southern Siberia but this is the first time archaeologists have found complete plants.
Indicators of Psychoactive Use
Another interesting facet of the find is that the plants were female and the flowers were removed. The flowers from the female plant contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana responsible for producing the high. Even 2,500 years later, scientists found that the remaining buds on the plants were covered in trichomes, which are small hairs on the plant that secrete resin that contains THC and other cannabinoids. The lack of hemp used for textiles in the area coupled with the plant’s THC content, indicates that the people along the Silk Road used cannabis for ritual, psychoactive or medicinal purposes. They may have smoked it, ate it or drank it; that part is not so clear.
Rewriting the History of Marijuana
In the history of marijuana, China seems to be a country that embraced the plant wholeheartedly. It was often used as a medicinal plant, to treat inflammation, pain, digestive issues and other physical issues. It wasn’t believed to be used recreationally until 140-208, when Hua Tuo was considered to be the first person who used the plant for its mind altering properties. This new discovery indicates that the history of recreational or ritual used of the plant goes back way further than initially predicted.
This particular tomb was one of 240 tombs that were excavated by archaeologists in Turpan Basin. There were 3 other tombs that contained marijuana fruits, leaves, stems and seeds. People in Siberia and northwestern China have been putting marijuana related substances in their loved ones tombs since at least the first millennia. This latest discovery sheds more light on the history of marijuana and its uses around the world.