Cannabis Roots: Humanity's Ancient Plant Ally

CANNABIS CULTURE – When most individuals consider the historical past of hashish, they typically flash to the “grass” the hippies of the 1960s smoked, or the “reefers” of the Jazz age. However, the very fact is, based on present archeological proof,humanity’s relationship with hashish goes again tens of hundreds of years earlier than even the primary phrases of man have been recorded.

The position of hashish within the historic world was manifold: with its nutritious seeds, an necessary meals; and its lengthy, pliable robust stalks an essential fibre, in addition to an early drugs from its leaves and flowers.

Hemp fibre imprints present in pottery shards in Taiwan, simply off the coast of mainland China, that have been over 10,000 years previous and remnants of fabric from  eight,000 B.C. have been discovered on the website of the traditional settlement Catal Hüyük (in Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey). Much older instruments used for breaking hemp stalk into fibres, point out humanity has been utilizing hashish for material “since 25,000 B.C. at least” (Barber, 1999).  “In 1997, a hemp rope dating back to 26,900 BC was found in Czechoslovakia. it was the oldest evidence for hemp fiber” (Seydibeyoglu, et. al. 2017).

It appears probably that by the point that humanity started weaving the fibres of the plant into material, that they had already been acquainted with it for hundreds of years, if not millennia. The late Professor Richard E. Schultes, of Harvard University, thought-about the daddy of recent ethnobotany, believed it was probably within the seek for meals, that humanity first found hashish and its protein wealthy seeds:

Early man experimented with all plant supplies that he might chew and couldn’t have prevented discovering the properties of hashish (marijuana), for in his quest for seeds and oil, he definitely ate the sticky tops of the plant.  Upon consuming hemp, the euphoric, ecstatic and hallucinatory points might have launched man to the other-worldly aircraft from which emerged spiritual beliefs, maybe even the idea of deity.  The plant turned accepted as a particular present of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the religious world and as such it has remained in some cultures to the current. (Schultes, 1973)

There has been fascinating scientific hypothesis that the psychoactive properties of hashish might have performed a task as a catalyst within the time interval of development that is called the Great Leap ahead, the place it might have aided prehistoric man with novel new methods of thought processes, and improvement in device making. Doctors John McPartland and Geoffery Guy, of their fascinating paper, The Evolution of Cannabis and Coevolution with the Cannabis Receptor – A Hypothesis, postulate that a plant ligand, such because the cannibinoids of the hemp plant, “may exert sufficient selection pressure to maintain the gene for a receptor in an animal. If the plant ligand improves the fitness of the receptor by serving as a ‘proto-medicine’ or a performance-enhancing substance, the ligand-receptor association could be evolutionarily conserved” (McPartland & Guy, 2004).

A current scientific research out of the USA led by Washington State University researcher Ed Hagen, has steered that our prehistoric ancestors might have ingested hashish as a way of killing of parasites, pointing to an identical follow among the many primitive Aka of recent day central Africa. We do know that references to hashish drugs seem on the planet’s oldest pharmacopeias, akin to China’s historic Pen Ts’ao, in historic Ayurvedic texts, within the medical papyrus of Egypt, in cuneiform medical recipes from Assyria, first on an inventory of medicinal crops within the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta and elsewhere. 

It might be fairly prompt that quickly after agriculture began, if not at its very inception, the cultivation of hashish started to unfold extensively, carrying its identify and its cult with it. In his research on the botanical historical past of hashish and man’s relationship with the plant, Dr. Mark Merlin put forth that “perhaps hemp was one of the original cultivated plants… [of]the progenitors of civilization” (Merlin, 1973). Merlin was not alone on this practice of thought. In his The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, the late Carl Sagan additionally speculated that early man might have begun the agricultural age by first planting hemp.  Sagan used the pygmies from southwest Africa to exhibit his speculation; the pygmies had been principally hunters and gatherers till they started planting hemp which they used for spiritual functions (Sagan 1977). More just lately Entheobotanist Christian Ratsch defined:

No different plant has been with people so long as hemp.  It is most definitely certainly one of humanity’s oldest cultural objects.  Wherever it was recognized, it was thought-about a practical, therapeutic, inebriating, and aphrodisiac plant. Through the centuries, myths have arisen about this mysterious plant and its divine powers.  Entire generations have revered it as sacred…. The energy of hemp has been praised in hymns and prayers. (Ratsch 1997)

Based on collected archaeological proof, we will see that Cannabis has been used for its resinous psychoactive properties for greater than 5 thousand years. The late archaeologist Andrew Sherratt of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, pointed to using hashish incenses at a gravesite of a gaggle generally known as the Proto-Indo-Europeans, the Kurgans, who occupied what’s now Romania 5,500 years in the past. The discovery of a smoking-cup which contained remnants of charred hemp seeds on the website paperwork that at three,500 years earlier than Christ humanity had already been utilizing hashish for spiritual functions for millennia. (Sherratt, 1995)

In Incense and Poison Ordeals within the Ancient Orient, Alan Godbey felt that in such immolation of psychoactive crops, we might discover the Genesis of the idea of “divine plants”:

As to the antiquity and genesis of such practices, it’s to be acknowledged…that they started when the primeval savage found that the smoke of his cavern hearth typically produced queer physiological results. First reverencing these moods of his hearth, he was not lengthy in discovering that they have been manifested solely when sure weeds or sticks have been included in his inventory of gasoline. After discovering out which of them have been accountable, he took to praying to those type gods for extra lovely visions of the unseen world, or for extra fervid inspiration… So one group of “animate and divine plants,” … outcomes from probably the most primitive empiricism, due to purely goal or concrete experiences… (Godbey, 1930)

These similar individuals who have been the primary to burn hashish have been additionally the primary to cultivate the horse, an act of domestication first completed it’s believed, with hemp ropes. As Mark Merlin, Professor of Botany on the University of Hawai’i has famous:

  The essential relationship between horse and human rider originated within the Sredni Stog tradition which flourished within the Ukraine 6,000 years in the past… The origin of horse driving was the primary vital innovation in human land transport predating the invention of the wheel, and hemp fibers might have performed an essential position on this essential invention of horse driving. (Merlin, 2003)

In the Discover article ‘First to Ride,(the appropriately named)  William Speed Weed, interviews archaeologist Sandra Olsen, who additionally makes reference to the utilization of hemp within the domestication of the horse, a pivotal and evolutionary step for historic man:

   “Prior to horseback riding, most people carried all their cargo on their shoulders, or they were restricted to using boats along rivers and coastlines,” says Olsen, an archaeologist on the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. “Horses were swift of foot, could easily support one or two human passengers, carry heavy loads, and survive on very poor quality vegetation or fodder. They were our first form of rapid transit.”

    “They probably had a simple bridle made of hide or hemp,” she says, “drawing a little schematic of a rope looped around the front teeth of a horse’s skull. They might also have had lassos, whips, tethers, and hobbles of the same material.” (Weed, 2002)

Thus it’s a extensively held view that it was with their nomadic horse driving descendants, resembling the gathering of steppe tribes we now know underneath the collective title as Scythians, that hashish was first unfold round a lot of the traditional world. Linguistics have left a hint with this, as the primary linguistic roots for the time period ‘cannabis’, comes from an historic Proto- Indo-European root phrase, “kanap”; the “an” from this root left traces in lots of trendy phrases for hashish, similar to French “chanvre”, German “hanf”, Indian “bhang”, Persian “bhanga”, Dutch “Canvas”, Greek “Kannabis,” and so forth. Through their excessive mobility, these historic nomadic horse riders unfold using hashish to quite a few cultures, not solely in identify and software, but in addition with the spiritual and magical connotations that had grown round it. Evidence of this has left its traces in a number of the world’s oldest present religions, and cultures.

Indeed, in 2016 a slew of stories articles have come out with Headlines like Founders of Western Civilization Were Prehistoric Dope Dealers (New Scientist) ; Was Marijuana the Original Cash Crop? ‘ (Men’s journal) ; ‘Surprising 5,000-Year-Old Cannabis Trade: Eurasian Steppe Nomads Were Earliest Pot Dealers’ (Ancient Origins) ; all stemming from a multi-authored  educational Paper, Cannabis in Eurasia: origin of human use and Bronze Age trans-continental connections, (Tengwen, Wagner, Demske, Leipe, Tarasov, 2016), that was revealed within the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany* and which detailed the paramount position hashish performed within the commerce, custom, and unfold of Indo-European Culture. So the above proof relating to the position of hashish within the origins of Western tradition shouldn’t be underestimated.

The authors of The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture word that “Hemp has not only been recovered from sites in Romania but also from a Yamma burial at Gurbanesti (Maldova) where traces were found in a ‘censer’ (a shallow footed bowl believed to have been used in the burning of some aromatic substance). It has been found in a similar context from an early bronze age burial in the north Caucasus…. Ceramics were more elaborate than those of the Yamma culture and included, especially in female burials, low footed vessels interpreted as ‘censers’, presumed to be used in rituals involving some narcotic substance such as hemp” (Mallory, et al., 1997). “It seems, therefore, that the practice of burning cannabis as a narcotic is a tradition which goes back in this area some five or six thousand years and was the focus of the social and religious rituals of the pastoral peoples of central Eurasia in prehistoric and early historic times” (Sherratt, 1995).“These ‘censers’ often highly decorated with ‘sunburst’ motifs, are widespread across the steppe region in the third millennium b.c. (extending at least from the Dnieper to the Yenisei) and may be part of a ritual complex. The censers also diffuse westward at this time in Romania, Hungary and further along the Danube” (Mallory, et al., 1997).

Clearly, humanity has had a pure, indigenous relationship with this crops, that extends again hundreds of years, and the wealthy historical past of varied tradition’s relationship with this magical, therapeutic herb, is one thing that we’ll be exploring additional, in future articles….. For extra on hashish within the historic world, Check out Chris Bennett’s ebook Cannabis and the Soma Solution .

Barber, EW.,  The Mummies of Urumchi, (New York: Norton, 1999)

Schultes, R.E., Man and Marijuana, Nat. Hist. 82 (1973)

McPartland J. M., Guy G. W., The evolution of Cannabis and coevolution with the cannabinoid receptor—a speculation, in The Medicinal Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, (2004)

Merlin, Mark,  Man and Marijuana, (Barnes and Co, 1973)

Sagan, Carl, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, (Random House, NY, 1977)

Mallory, J. P. and Adams, Douglas Q.,  Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, (Taylor & Francis, 1997)

Ratsch, Christian, Plants of Love: Aphrodisiacs in Myth, History, and the Present, (Ten Speed Press, 1997)


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