Marijuana chemical residue has been found in incense burners apparently used during funerary rites at a mountainous site in western China in about 500 BC, providing what may be the oldest evidence of smoking cannabis for its mind-altering properties.
The evidence was found on ten wooden braziers containing stones with burn marks that were discovered in eight tombs at the Jirzankal Cemetery site in the Pamir Mountains in China’s Xinjiang region.
The tombs also bore human skeletons and artefacts including a type of angular harp used in ancient funerals and sacrificial ceremonies.
The researchers used a method called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify organic material preserved in the braziers, detecting marijuana’s chemical signature.
They found a higher level of THC, the plant’s main psychoactive constituent, than the low levels typically seen in wild cannabis plants, indicating it was chosen for its mind-altering qualities.
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