Alternatively, if you lived in West China 2,500 years ago, you would smoke good things at funerals while playing ritual music and perhaps sacrificing human beings as well.
That's what a fascinating new study says in the newspaper Progress of science. The researchers analyzed old incense burners (called fires) from burial sites of the so-called Jirzankal Cemetery, at almost 300 meters altitude in the mountains of Asia central, and highlighted positive residues. cannabis. In addition, its content in THC is high, at least by old standards, suggesting that these people were looking for the most powerful plants for their funeral rituals, perhaps helped by the fact that the cultivation of high-altitude cannabis tends to express more THC. This is a glimpse into how cannabis use has spread in the ancient world and how we, humans, have long exploited the malleability of the plant for our own purposes , whether it is to enjoy video games or to bring compatriots into the afterlife.
The cannabis we grow today is very different from what our ancestors got their hands on. In recent years, producers, particularly in northern California, legendary country of weeds-Have varieties selected to produce ever more flowers with an ever higher THC content. We are talking about 30% THC, whereas in the '60s, hippies could blow all day with 5% flowers, which is more like cannabis than found in the US. wild state and what these ancient peoples may be used.
Matt Simon covers cannabis, robots and climate science for WIRED.
This study did not, however, make it possible to determine the percentage of THC contained in the residue, because technically it does not contain any. Instead, the researchers tested a kind of signal for THC called cannabinol, or CBN. "THC will turn into CBN via an oxidative degradation pathway," said Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop Cannabis Lab, who did not participate in the work. "It's an elegant way of saying that in the presence of air and / or heat, it will go from THC to CBN."
The mere presence of CBN in significant amounts is revealing, as it suggests significant amounts of THC in cannabis burned by braziers. Because many cannabis growing in nature contains very small amounts of THC. Hemp, for example, is by definition less than 0.3% THC.
The provenance of these ancient peoples, however, is not clear. But a candidate could be the Kafiristan varieties, which are growing today in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. "In its wild state, its production of chemicals is higher," says co-author of the study, Robert Spengler, director of the Paleoethnobotany Laboratories of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of History human. "So it is quite possible that this plant existed further north in the past and that humans were targeting it."
Researchers are uncertain whether these people were actively domesticating and cultivating their cannabis, choosing more intoxicating plants, or finding populations to be exploited in the wild. "The results suggest that humans may have harvested or exchanged atypically psychoactive wild cannabis plants for altered states of consciousness," says Ryan Stoa, who is studying history of cannabisbut who did not participate in the study. "Alternatively, humans could have obtained psychoactive cannabis by selecting and growing the plants themselves, which would be one of the oldest examples of psychoactive cannabis culture."
Even if these people did not grow their own plants to get a higher THC content, they would have come across some really intoxicating cannabis, at least by wild standards, because of a strange biological quirk. Cannabis is a very plastic plant, which means that you can take two genetically identical individuals and grow them in two different conditions, and you will get two different chemical compositions. Elements such as sun exposure, soil quality and water can all affect the amount of THC and the number of other cannabinoids like CBD-The plant expresses.
Critically, at these higher altitudes, cannabis would be exposed to more UV rays than at lower altitudes. "The plant is known for making THC as UV protection," says Raber. You see, a plant is not as helpless as it may seem. "He's trying to find the molecules to generate to protect himself from pests or to protect himself from his own environment."
So here, in the mountains of Central Asia, the ancient peoples may have found the ideal habitat for the growth of powerful weeds. How, however, do scientists know that they do not burn cannabis as incense for these rituals? On the one hand, this particular landscape is dominated by two groups of plants, juniper trees and artemisia – essentially the Central Asian version of the southwestern US sagebrush. Both are very aromatic and known to be important in the burning of ancient incense. Wild cannabis, on the other hand, does not have the atmosphere of today's high octane varieties. (This characteristic smell, by the way, come from compounds called terpenoids.)
"So it really makes no sense to understand why they would not have a lot of odor in its wild state, while there were so many other options on the market "said Spengler.
In addition, historical accounts of the Greek historian Herodotus describe the use of cannabis among Western peoples in the Caspian steppe, what an archaeological find has corroborated: a wooden tent frame and copper containers containing scorched cannabis seeds, suggesting hot boxing This may be a purification ritual after funerals, while this new discovery seems to be more of an average smoking.
"I think ancient people smoked cannabis to reach a special hallucinogenic state, to communicate with nature or the spirits of the dead," says study co-author Yimin Yang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In the Jirzankal cemetery, then, someone was blazing. But it's hard to say who exactly. It may have been the community, or maybe just the spiritual elites. It is also difficult to guess how the intoxication was combined with other elements of the ritual, although there may have been a musical component, since the researchers discovered an angular harp in the burial sites. In addition, they found evidence of human sacrifice in the form of peri-corporal wounds of skeletal remains, that is, blows sustained near or at the time of death.
"So it's a plausible argument that there could be a human being attached to all this ritual activity," says Spengler. "How can you integrate into a current morgue practice, I can only speculate." The researchers point out that this evidence requires further investigation. (You can not just accuse people, willy-nilly, of ritual human sacrifice, after all.)
But what is becoming clearer is the illustration of a time in history when human populations came and went more and more from Central Asia: by testing the bones of the Jirzankal cemetery, researchers might determine that some individuals were not part of this part. . By traveling the trade routes, various peoples have disseminated ideas and products. Cannabis was both an idea and a good resource, not only to make things like rope, but also to stand up and influence rituals.
"Smoking cannabis is becoming a widespread cultural practice that can link people from all over Western Asia and Central Asia," said Spengler.
A love, as they say.
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