High times in ancient China
Archaeologists have uncovered the first physical evidence of humans using marijuana to get high, high in the mountains of Western China, reports NPR.org. A chemical analysis of wooden incense burners from a 2,500-year-old burial ground revealed residues of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), weed’s psychoactive compound. The burners are thought to have been used in mortuary rituals in which participants would place heated stones in the wooden braziers and cover them with cannabis leaves—producing a suitably atmospheric haze. Signs of ancient marijuana use have previously been discovered at burial sites in Eurasia, but this find, in the Pamir Mountains, is the oldest and farthest east yet. Co-author Yimin Yang, from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, says the smoke was likely being used “to communicate with nature or spirits or deceased people, accompanied by music.” The residue suggests the cannabis used had high levels of THC. Wild strains of the plant tend to have lower levels, but it’s unclear whether the ancient users cultivated the pot themselves or simply gathered a particularly strong batch.