A Sadhu (Hindu holy man) smokes marijuana from a clay pipe as a holy offering for Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction, at the Pashupatinath temple during Maha Shivaratri in Kathmandu on March 2, 2011. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images).
Have you ever found yourself half in-the-bag, staring at a wall in a pair of your gnarliest sweatpants thinking out loud to no one in particular “Man…I wonder if anyone has ever done this before?” Well, according to a bong-rocking recent discovery, the answer to that question is: Yes… They certainly have!
According to new a new find, one uncovered high in the mountains of Western China, it was discovered that humans have been smoking forms of marijuana for at least 2,500 years! Or to put it in terms that many comically stereotypically pot-users might better understand “Like…a really long time.”
In recent years, through legalization and widespread mainstream acceptance, imbibing in occasional (or even fairly regular) ganja use no longer carries the same level of a social taboo it did even a decade ago.
Politicians seemingly brag about it having done it. Who could forget President Obama’s response to the Clinton-era refrain asking if he ever inhaled: “I inhaled frequently…that was the point.” Now, many cable sitcoms are based on either smoking or procuring weed and in many states, you can buy marijuana over the counter at your local (licensed) corner store.
But to many, it’s still an illegal narcotic, only “cheefed” by the “baddest of the bad.” But this new discovery is helping show that marijuana is not simply some sticky herb brought to popularity by the flower children of the ’60s, but a common ritual dating back thousands and thousands of years.
“The misconceptions people have about cannabis are so ingrained because, let’s face it, the propaganda against it was pretty damn good,” said Jake Browne, founder of The Grow-Off. “Sadly, [this discovery] probably doesn’t change anything until we can prove Jesus Christ himself was anointing people with weed oil.”
One hot find
After archaeologists unearthed their recent find in a Pamir Mountain cemetery (Google it…it’s really high up there, no pun intended), that uncovered the remains of some old school makeshift pipes, scientists are now able to definitively say that humans have been lighting spliffs for more than two and a half millennia. Which, if you wanted to think back that far, you’d probably have to be pretty dang high.
The discovery was made at Jirzankal Cemetery, a site where a team of scientists from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing determined people had gathered roughly 2,500 years ago to mourn the passing of a fellow community member. And, in the tradition of a modern-day wake, they opted to drown their sorrows by deeply inhaling some powerful cannabis.
Scientist Yimin Yang and his team showed that these mourners put the potent leaves in small wooden boxes. After adding a heating element, the smoke would waft from nostril to nostril making an otherwise sad affair a whole lot more enjoyable.
After Yang’s team compared their findings to previous ancient cannabis use determined to be from roughly 790 to 20 B.C. (give or take a few hundred years, naturally), Yang’s researchers were able to weed-out any questions and prove that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
“To our excitement, we identified the biomarkers of cannabis and local chemicals related to the psychoactive properties of a plant,” archaeologist Yang announced in a press conference coinciding with the release of their report.
Long speculated, but finally confirmed
While past instances to show ancient societal pot-use have ultimately been disproven, this new finding is as true as the most potent strain of “Maui Wowie.” Until now, it’s been pretty tough to track the prior generation’s chronic use because the plants they were puffin’ tend to fade with time (it’s crazy what lighting something on fire can do to its longevity). That’s not to say there haven’t been theories, however.
Way way back in Fifth Century B.C., there was a Greek historian named Herodotus who first described the idea of people producing hemp seeds for…ummm…more than just making rope. But while his depiction of the clearly hella chill Scythians might have caused them to get prehistorically narc’d on, these Siberian nomadic warriors thankfully were never caught red (or green)-handed. Even in one culture’s text of record, The Bible, Moses is said to have spoken to his higher power through an image appearing the fire of a burning bush in the Book of Exodus. Some on the fringes of society point to that immolated crop as being nothing other than some grade-A marihoochie, but we will probably have to wait to ask Saint Peter that question when our time comes to be sure.
“It turns out that everything we were told about drugs was wrong,” Browne said, who also served as the former cannabis reviewer for The Denver Post. “Cannabis is a powerful tool for veterans that suffer from PTSD, for example. Research is showing that MDMA and psilocybin from mushrooms have vast therapeutic benefits. They’re also scary as hell to a lot of people, so showing that cultures have used psychic experiences for millennia without causing a dinosaur-level extinction event is important.”
Stronger and pickier than previously expected
The new findings were published in Science Advances and make the distinction that while there have been previously many known instances of people or societies growing marijuana for its material components, this is the first confirmed trace of it being used for its psychoactive potential.
Furthermore, the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (a.k.a, THC) found in samples of the charred remains were much more potent than any dime-bag that could be purchased elsewhere.
Researchers had been working for some time to get answers on what had been residing in the aforementioned wooden burn-boxes (the equivalent of a modern-day pipe or perhaps, apple-core, depending on your social standing). After doing their homework on some samples, they not only discovered it was cannabis but in fact …like, really good cannabis.
You see, just like “your guy (or gal)” who you call when you need to level up (or down), these 500 B.C. pot farmers knew a thing or two about their favorite strains. They may not have used terms like “indica” and “sativa” but they had their preferences and at the burial ceremony in question, they busted out the good stuff. Must have been a pretty good friend!
Scientists found extremely high levels of THC in the burned chars leading Dr. Yang and his team to determine that not only did they enjoy smoking pot, but they knew how to pick the desired strain. Something many are still trying to figure out. And they didn’t even have apps yet!
“Coming from a world where we deal with cannabis genetics on a daily basis, it was validating to hear that they were likely cultivating more potent plants on some level,” said Browne. “We have people crowing constantly about the new ‘super cannabis’ that they argue is too strong for people. Besides the fact that this ignores thousands of years of hash making in Asia, I really want to know how high they were getting and if we can finally put that conversation to bed.”
Not everyone finds these findings to be of the utmost relevance or importance, however.
“The first thing that I thought about when I saw this was that it wasn’t news. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the plant has been around for 2500 years. Do people think that hippies invented it in the ’60s?,” said the Director of a wholesale cannabis firm, who asked not to be named.
The Director continued, “The news should be on the studies about how opioid overdoses have significantly gone down in (marijuana) legalized states. That no one person has ever died, EVER, as a result of marijuana use – In contrast to the 100,000’s of deaths from alcohol and tobacco. Or that it is actually still federally illegal to study the plant for its medicinal purposes in the United States.”
Traditions of the past may lead to a more accepting future
In total, the team of scientists found 10 of these burning boxes at the cemetery and from their multiple rounds of testing deduced that the event-goers would position the uber-potent leaves into the wood containers and then place hot stones upon them which caused the leaves to smoke and their lungs to get filled with that indescribable feeling of “Ahh.” Heated rocks? Now that’s what I call getting stoned! Also, not a bad method for lighting up. Going to add that to the list right between “gravity-bong” and “hollowed-out Bic pen.”
So while marijuana still might not be so openly accepted that you can bring it as an offering for your grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner (and if that is something they are cool with…can you take some pictures?) take heed in knowing that weed is something that people from all over the world have been using for thousands of years for many of the same reasons you are.
While these remains may have been found at a funeral, who knows what their purpose was. They could have been using some green to lift them from their funeral-blues? Or to toast (toke?) to the life of their close fallen friend? Or perhaps even for the purpose of loosening up so they could collectively dance on his or her grave. But whatever the purpose, if these newest findings are any indica[tion] they didn’t do it on accident.
Despite what they later told that cop.