Humans have been smoking marijuana for 2,500 years — and now, there's proof

One of the pots from the Jirzankal Cemetry in China's Pamir Mountains used for burning marijuanaScience Advances

  • Marijuana has been around for centuries but now scientists have found proof of the cannabis plant being used for its psychoactive elements going as far back as 2,500 years.
  • Researchers at UCAS found pots in Jirzankal Cemetery in China's Pamir Mountains that contain marjiuana residue.
  • They also speculate that this may have been one of the regions where the use of marijuana spread to the rest of the world via the Silk Road.
It's always been speculated that humans have been smoking marjiunana for thousands of years and now we have proof how far the use of cannabis really goes.

Pots used for burning marijuana 2,500 years ago

Pots found in the ruins of funeral home in China show that people in Central Asia were smoking marjiuana 2,500 years ago. Researchers at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences ( UCAS) found chemical residue in a study of incense burners from the Jirzankal Cemetery in the Pamir Mountains.

Burial site where the marijuana pots were found

"This study provides some of the earliest clear evidence for the use of cannabis for its psychoactive compounds, and the awareness of higher THC-producing varieties of the plant."

Researcher from UCAS

Growing marijuana to smoking marijuana

Scientists have already determined that the cultivation of cannabis has been happening since 4000 BC. But, in the cases observed, the primary use of cannabis has been as an oil crop — like mustard seeds today — and the crops had very low concentrations of the chemical, THC.

This time around, in a study that was published in Science Advances, scientists are certain that marjiuana was used specifically for its psychoactive properties. When they originally found the pots in 2013, the remains showed clear signs of burning.

The team originally assumed that it was used for a ritual at the funeral. In order to determine what was burnt within the pots, they began the analyse chemical properties of the wood and stones using gas chromatography mass spectrometry.

Researcher using gas chromatography mass spectrometry to determine residue elementsUCAS

What they found surprised them. They didn't just find trace amounts of cannabinol in some of the pots but nearly all of them. Scientists ascertain that this means cannabis was deliberately burnt in the pots and that cannabis plants with high THC content was deliberately sought out by the people in Jirzankal.

While cannabis is largely a recreational drug or a medicinal aid today, it may have been used in a completely different way in the past.

Moving down the Silk Road


Remains from the cemetery show that not all the bones come from local residents or at least not from people who were originally born in the Pamir Mountains.

Map of the Pamir Moutains in ChinaScience Advances


Today, the Pamir regions may be considered remote but back then, it's likely that the Silk Road passed right through the region.


See also:
I use medical marijuana to treat my insomnia, and the first time I tried it went terribly wrong

A mysterious condition makes marijuana users violently ill, and it reveals a hidden downside to the drug's growing popularity

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