2,700 Year Old Cannabis sativa Discovered

An interesting paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany published back in December discusses the discovery of 2,700 Year Old Cannabis sativa. The discovery was made in the Yanghai tombs in China.


There are an estimated 2,500 tombs in the region that date to around 3200-2000 years BP. A number of the bodies are actually mummified. The tomb we are interested in has been given the designation M90.
Cannabis.JPGThe burial at Tomb M90
The burial is that of a 45 year old male. The grave goods included bridles, archery equipment, a harp, a leather basket, and a wooden bowl. Both the basket and the bowl were filled with vegetative matter – about 789 grams (~ 1 pound 11 ounces). Radiocarbon dating was performed and a calibrated date of 2,700 years BP was returned. Analysis of the vegetative material indicated it was Cannabis sativa. Furthing testing indicated it was psychoactive. As the paper points out, there are still some unresolved questions:

Current data do not permit it to be ascertained how the cannabis from the tomb was administered. If used orally, perhaps it was combined in some fashion with Capparis spinosa L., as these plants were found together in a nearby but later tomb at Yanghai … That date for that tomb was initially reported as 2700 years BP via radiocarbon methods, and since corrected to 2200-2400 years BP with additional calibration employing tree ring data. If this cannabis were smoked or inhaled, no mechanism for so doing has been excavated in the area. The Gushi could have sifted the cannabis through fabric after pounding, then fumigated it, much as described for the alleged cannabis candidate, the Sumerian A.ZAL.LA, administered medicinally for ‘hand of ghost’…, since posited as nocturnal epilepsy … While this culture could have arrived from the earlier BMAC region as ‘oasis hoppers’ …, and certain cultural relationships are apparent to the Scythian culture with respect to cannabis use and equestrian prowess, those peoples were Iranian speakers … In addition, Gushi cultural affinities and burial practices much more closely resemble those of the presumed proto-Tocharian speaking, incense-burning … Afanasievo peoples in the Yenisei Valley to the north …, whose putative southward migration some authorities have attributed to ‘global cooling’ c. 4000 years BP …, and to their proto-Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya forebears further west, dating to 6000 years BP … Abundant mysteries remain as to the origins and customs of the Gushi. Additional answers may accrue from future archaeological excavations or human genetic analyses that elucidate relationships with other ancient cultures and modern peoples of the region. The unique SNPs discovered in this ancient sample may yet be of critical importance in tracing the phylogeny and geographic spread of cannabis and the humans who used it.

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17 Responses

  1. Herodotus tells a really funny story (for us) about the odd “cleaning” habits of the Scythian Nomads. They constructed small huts in which they set up a charcoal fire and tossed certain herbs on it to make a lot of smoke – your basic sauna. Except this smoke apparently made them “howl with laughter”.

  2. The paper mentions something similar:

    Rudenko recovered cannabis seeds, censers, and hempen clothing in Pazyryk, Siberia from Scythian kurgans (burial mounds) from 2400–2500 years BP …, closely matching Herodotus’ descriptions of funeral rites for that culture (Herodotus, 1998).

  3. An excellent discovery that proves Cannabis an effective medicinal dating back 2,700+ years!

  4. 2,700+ years! Return to origin…

  5. This reminds me of the 7 year old remains of a joint butt that Stansted airport police once found amongst the detritus of one of my camera bag pockets. They eventually let me off after I gave them a Stg50 cheque for their benevolent fund, but only after they had done everything possible to incriminate me, including an anal inspection with a rubber glove.
    It also gives me hope that the tiny chunk of black I hid two years ago (and forgot where) may still have something in it.

  6. How do they know these people were ‘Iranian speakers’? Oh, and… are y’ gonna finish that hot dog?

  7. “Archeologists named him ZigZag Man.”

  8. Smoke pot and end up like this man…dead. : D

  9. That dude is still stoned! A-1 weed, no doubt.

  10. If the current propaganda is true that marijuana is much stronger today than it was even 30 years ago, this must have been some really weak stuff.
    After all, we are so sophisticated these days, with our war on drugs that is melting Mexico and all the other Reagan era theories that have melted our economy. It isn’t like 2700 years ago, when people could sit together in a public hut and laugh their buttocks off together. Those people were truly barbarian with their musical instruments and happy herbs. Thank god I live in this country, where freedom rings!
    Unless you want to smoke weed, then no freedom ringing.
    We are so much better now, our hypocrisy and freedom being so much more sophisticated.

  11. Evidence that pot smoking results in death.

  12. This guy seems to have lived quite well (45 yrs) for the time he was born into.

  13. “Analysis of the vegetative material indicated it was Cannabis sativa. Furthing testing indicated it was psychoactive.”
    Wait, you mean they looked at (analyzed) it and went ‘hey, this looks like weed!’ and then they smoked (further testing) it? Because thats pretty much what it sounds like to me!

  14. I would dare say that if this man had not smoked pot he would still be alive today. Proof that pot kills!

  15. If all you ‘pot kills’ dip-sticks are still around in 2,700 years, you may have an argument; at this point, you must feel quite intellectually inadequate to have a bunch of stoners one-upping you on the logistics of life and death.

  16. uuummmmm Mark, I think that is sarcasm

  17. to you “pot kills” idiots, you really show your a@@ with statements like that. the people that wrote this report believe that the person in the tomb was a shaman, and yes also that it was used for phsycoactive purposes(getting high) but nowhere did they say it killed him.do you really think that if it was so bad and kills so many people, that after 2700 years of all the killing by one thing that it would be used for so many other thing and that man has been that stupid for 2700 years
    if you would follow the money and not the b.s of the last 80 years you could take the wool off of your eyes.(william hearst wanted marijuana made illegal so no paper could be made out of to compete with paper made from his timber,dupont no compition for nylon just to name a few

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