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In a burial of about 2,500 years ago, archaeologists found whole plant cannabis to cover the body: they were probably used for ritual or medicinal purposes.
A “unique stock” of cannabis in a tomb about 2,500 years ago: the discovery in north-west China, provides important clues to understanding how the ancient Eurasian cultures used the plant for ritual and medicinal purposes.
In the tomb, found in the Turpan Basin in northwest China, it is buried a boy of about 35 years, with somatic traits Caucasians.
The man was placed on a wooden bed, with a red pillow to support his head; and body, arranged diagonally, had 13 cannabis plants, with roots oriented towards the pelvis and the peaks toward the chin, and to cover the left side of the face. The radiocarbon dating of the contents of the tomb indicates that the burial took place between 2,400 and 2,800 years ago.
The discovery is in addition to a growing body of findings showing that, thousands of years ago, the use of cannabis was “very popular” in European steppes. The newly discovered tomb is one of 240 found in the cemetery of Jiayi, and is associated to the culture Subeixi (also known as Gushi) settled in the area about 3000-2000 years ago. At the time, the desert oasis of Turpan was an important stop on the Silk Road.
The cannabis plants had been found in some other burial of Turpan: ten years ago, in particular, was found nearly a pound of seeds and herbal cannabis powder in the cemetery of Yanghai, close, contemporary to that of Jiayi . Further west, in southern Siberia, other seeds were found in Scythian tombs of the first millennium BC, including that of a woman who died probably of breast cancer according to archaeologists perhaps made use of cannabis for pain relief.