Evidence of Ancient Cannabis Use Found at Biblical Site in Israel

A new study indicates ancient use of cannabis at a shrine in Israel.
Evidence Of Cannabis Use Found At Biblical Site In Israel
Tel Arad/ Wikimedia Commons

Researchers studying two altars from an ancient shrine in Israel have discovered that cannabis was used in religious rituals at the site. The discovery is the earliest evidence of cannabis use in the Ancient Near East, according to authors of a study published Thursday in the archaeological journal Tel Aviv.

The researchers studied residue from two limestone altars that were discovered in 1963 at the entrance to the “Holy of Holies” of a Judahite shrine devoted to Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God used in the Bible. The site, which was built in approximately 750 BCE and used for only about 35 years, is part of Tel Arad, an archaeological mound located in Israel’s Beersheba Valley west of the Dead Sea.

The tops of both altars contained residue that archaeologists at the time of discovery attributed to the ritualistic use of incense. Chemical analysis of the residue conducted more than 50 years ago to determine the source of the residue had been inconclusive.

Eran Arie, the lead author of the study and curator of Iron Age and Persian Periods archaeology in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, realized that the residue on the altars, which have been on display since 1965, was still intact when the exhibit was moved between 2007 and 2010. About two years ago, he realized that more modern techniques including liquid chromatography and gas chromatography could be used to analyze the residue again.

The residue from the smaller of the two altars was found to contain the cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBN. Fatty acids and hormones that researchers attributed to a mammalian source and evidence of animal feces were also discovered. The second altar contained terpenoids associated with frankincense and further evidence of animal fat of a mammalian origin.

Researchers Surprised by Discovery

Arie said that the discovery of cannabis residue came as a surprise to the researchers.

“We know from all around the Ancient Near East and around the world that many cultures used hallucinogenic materials and ingredients in order to get into some kind of religious ecstasy,” he told CNN.

“We never thought about Judah taking part in these cultic practices. The fact that we found cannabis in an official cult place of Judah says something new about the cult of Judah,” Arie added.

The researchers believe that cannabis resin was mixed with the dung and fat and ignited to achieve a slow, smoldering burn that would produce smoke conducive to group inhalation. Although the frankincense was likely burned on the larger altar as incense, Arie believes that the cannabis was burned for its psychoactive effect rather than its aroma.

“If you really wanted only the odor or the fragrance of cannabis, you could’ve burned sage,” he said. “Only when you are burning cannabis are the [psychoactive ingredients] released into the air. So it’s not a matter of smell like with the frankincense; it’s a matter of the ecstasy and the hallucinogenic effects from the burning cannabis.”

The authors of the study wrote that they are unsure how cannabis made its way to Tel Arad. But because no cannabis seeds or pollen have been found at archaeological sites in the Ancient Near East, they theorize that it was imported to the area as hashish.

  1. Sure , it`s OK to use Cannabis to Con Folks into believing in some Bogus God . But now you get arrested for your Godly Consumption of Cannabis . What a Pile of Shit Planet this is .

    1. HalleluYah!Genesis 1:29 ISR And Elohim said, “See, I have given you every plant that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed, to you it is for food.

  2. I’ve believed Cannabis is God’s gift to humanity, much like manna was provided during the exodus from Egypt. Cannabis. What a great counter to the Devil’s psychological assaults on humanity occurring during today’s exodus from slavery of the Devil’s System.

  3. Well sir… I am a Christian – the God you speak of is not bogus – shows up over and over in my life (even have some interesting video – https://youtu.be/m-KN18gCajU)

    Please understand that my struggle has been very very real, and the Holy Spirit came upon me while I was seeking truth to the whole idea of MMJ.

    The problem is NOT a ‘bogus’ God as you say… it is a problem with a bunch of bogus people who, though well intended – really don’t grasp TRUTH and TRUTH ONLY. If you taint facts with opinions, even lies… (remember the ol’ brains on drugs commercials – BS! – or at least some of what they offered as facts).

    The Bible is misunderstood in many respects and it’s an all or nothing kind of thing bro’. No amount of fighting for ‘rights’ will result in ‘what is right’. In fighting, someone loses, and so, loses ‘rights’. And THAT is NOT ‘right’.

    If I had anything to offer, don’t let these mis-guided Christian’s ruin the only Truth that counts. It takes a huge amount of mental horsepower to grasp what I am talking about – I’m beyond Mensa – and you cannot fault a people for lack of understanding, no more than you should seriously injure a child while teaching them. God didn’t make anything ‘bad’ – period. And He DID make Weed.

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