Cannabis Played a Role in Ancient Funeral Rites in China

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Historians and anthropologists have long debated the historic role of cannabis in humanity’s oldest civilizations. There is certainly some archaeological record that support cannabis’ role in human communities going back millennia.

For example, there is an ancient, tattooed Siberian mummy buried with cannabis that has since been found to have likely died of breast cancer. Some people hypothesize that the cannabis was part of the treatment for that condition back then. However, it is very difficult to know exactly what reason people had for interring the mummified princess with cannabis.

Now, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing working in western China have found a different ole for cannabis in funeral rites. Instead of burying it with the deceased, it appears that people in a remote mountain region of western China burned cannabis during funerals for its intoxicating effects at funeral services.

This research raises the question of whether cannabis has long played a now-forgotten role in the ceremonies and rites of older civilizations. Scientists known people were growing it as far back as 4,000 years ago for oil, fiber, and seeds. It now seems that it may have played a psychological or social role as well as an economic one.

There is no question that the euphoric effects of smoked cannabis could benefit people dealing with intense grief and potentially lead to community bonding. Knowing that even ancient cultures recognized this use for the plant should empower more people to consider incorporating cannabis into social rituals today.

As the science of archaeology continues to improve, we will no doubt continue to find evidence of these strangely profound relationship our species has developed with this plant throughout our shared history.

For previous Ladybud articles about history, click here.