Archaeologists Unearth Oldest-Known Evidence of Cannabis Smoking

by Benjamin M. Adams | June 13, 2019

A groundbreaking research paper published on June 12 in Science Advances and highlighted the same day in National Geographic examined the “earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence” of cannabis smoking, which was recently found at a burial site in East Asia. While finding low-potency cannabis plant material and seeds is common in burial sites, this is the strongest evidence yet that early civilizations in fact smoked cannabis for its effects.

Scientists from multiple countries dug at Jirzankal Cemetery, an archaeological site on the Pamir Plateau in far-western China. What they found were wooden bowls filled with stones that were used to burn cannabis. Tiny remnants of potent cannabis residue were found, which was rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), suggesting that they were used as rudimentary pipes. The ancient “pipes” may have worked in a similar manner to modern day hookahs—which utilize hot coals to smoke tobacco, shisha(tobacco and molasses) or cannabis.

Researchers believe that there’s enough evidence to confidently determine that smoking took place. “Here, we present some of the earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence for ritual cannabis smoking,” 

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