Friday, June 14, 2019

Ancient Stoners

In 2013 Chinese archaeologists excavated a cemetery on the Pamir Plateau of western China that dates to around 500 BC. This is a dry, desert area and much wood was preserved.

Ten of the skeletons were buried with incense burners on a common pattern. These were wooden blocks, with a hollow dug into them that had been filled with rocks.

The braziers contained a burned residue that intrigued the archaeologists, so they submitted samples for analysis by gas chromatography to figure out what it was. The results came back with a high level of cannabinol (CBN), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabicyclol (CBL), all of which come from cannabis.

THC, the active ingredient, does not survive for any length of time, but in modern plants the level of THC is closely correlated with the level of CBN. The level of CBN in these samples was highly elevated compared to what you would find in ordinary hemp being grown for fiber. So it looks like these folks had specially bred their plants to increase the THC yield. So they could get high more easily.

Based on what we know from Scythians at the western end of the Eurasian plain, at about the same time, cannabis was used ritually, both for funeral rites and to help induce shamanistic trance. But the line between ritual and fun has always been a blurry one.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Kids these days! Always crossing the liminal barrier between worlds and communing with the spirits! They're going to end up a bunch of worthless mystics, and then they'll be sorry! They'll be out in the streets begging for alms! That'll learn 'em! Tch!