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Archeologists Discover First-Ever Ancient Cannabis ‘Burial Shroud’

Maureen Meehan

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A Chinese archaeologist and his colleagues unearthed the remains of a man, buried approximately 2,400 to 2,800 years ago, whose family had carefully placed 13, three-foot cannabis plants in his tomb.

The archeology team, led by Hongen Jiang, is calling the discovery of this ancient burial in northwest China’s Turpan Basin, an “extraordinary cache of cannabis,” which adds significantly to understanding how ancient Eurasian cultures used marijuana for ritual and medicinal purposes.

Photo Courtesy of Hongen Jiang

Photo Courtesy of Hongen Jiang

According to the report published in the journal Economic Botany, the cannabis plants were practically intact, except for most of the flowers which had been clipped. Jiang concluded that because of their excellent condition, the plants were freshly and locally harvested in late summer.

Since previous cannabis finds in Turpan burials consisted only of plant parts, it has been difficult for researchers to determine whether the plant was grown locally or obtained through trade with neighboring regions, National Geographic reported.

This is the first time ever that archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a “shroud” or covering in a human burial, said Jiang.

This discovery also adds to a growing collection of archaeological evidence showing that cannabis consumption was “very popular” across the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago.

Photo Courtesy of Hongen Jiang

Photo Courtesy of Hongen Jiang

Cannabis plant parts have been found in a few other Turpan burials, most notably in a contemporaneous burial in a nearby Yanghai cemetery discovered nearly a decade ago. That tomb was found to have contained nearly two pounds of cannabis seeds.

West of Turpan, cannabis seeds have also been found in southern Siberian burial sites, including one of a woman thought to have died of breast cancer—the mummified Ukok “princess”—who archeologists say used cannabis to ease her symptoms.

Cannabis has been helping people with medical issues for a very long time, including making their trip to the afterlife a pleasant experience.

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