Nowadays, if you get caught smoking pot in China, you might get jailed, deported or worse. 2,800 years ago; however, things may have been a little more laid back.
According to a paper published in Economic Botany (via National Geographic), Chinese researchers recently unearthed an “extraordinary cache” of 13 nearly whole cannabis plants arranged diagonally like a shroud over the body of a dead man inside a tomb located in northwestern China.
According to radiocarbon dating, the man was buried with his cannabis 2,400 to 2,800 years ago.
The tomb is just one of 240 at a cemetery site located in the Turpan Basin, an important desert oasis stop along the Silk Road. The man was around 35 years old when he was buried and appeared to be Caucasian. Scientists have speculated that he may have been a shaman of the Subeixi culture.
While this isn’t the first time that researchers have discovered cannabis plants at sites in northwestern China, the way that the plants were placed brings new evidence: it likely means the plants were fresh — and therefore locally grown — and it also suggests a spiritual or medicinal use for the plants.
“This is the first time ever that archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a ‘shroud’ or covering in a human burial,” the study’s lead author, Hongen Jiang said, according to National Geographic.
While cannabis plants can be used to make cloth or edible seeds, Jiang added that no hemp textiles had been found at the cemetery and the seeds of the plants were too small to be of use as food. Therefore, researchers have concluded that “medicinal and possibly spiritual or at least ritualistic Cannabis use was a widespread custom among Central Eurasian peoples during the first millennium before the Christian era.”
We already know that beer has been around in China for 5,000 years, and that people were drinking tea and playing board games 2,150 years ago. Maybe ancient China wasn’t such a bad place to live after all.