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2500-Year-Old Well-Preserved Cannabis Plant Found in Desert Oasis

Nov 10, 2016 04:19 AM EST

Archaelogoists have found an "extraordinary cache" of cannabis plants in a burial state in northwest China, indicating how ancient Eurasian people used the plant for medicinal and ritual purposes, according to a news release on National Geographic. They found the remains of a 35-year-old man with Caucasian features and on his chest were thirteen plants that were well-preserved. A reed pillow was found beneath his head, with the plants being placed diagonally across his chest.

A report published in the journal Economic Botany stated that radiocarbon dating on the contents of the tombs indicate that the burial took place between 2,400 and 2,800 years back. This new find adds to the growing collection of evidences showing that the consumption of cannabis was extremely popular among Eurasians., says Hongen Jiang, an archaeologist, who was part of the study. The discovery was made in the Jiayi cemetery in Turpan, where researchers have already found 240 additional graves. Archaeologists in the past had found cannabis in some other graves in the area and one notable finding consisted of powdered cannabis leaves and seeds weighing approximately 2 pounds. However, this recent discovery is the first time a whole plant has been unearthed.

Researchers are now finding it tough to know whether the plant was grown locally or sourced from neighboring regions through trade. The plants found on the man's body, in this case, were placed flat and were fresh, which have led archaeologists to believe that they were harvested for burial. Another interesting thing is that the flowering heads of the plants had mostly been cut off and a few that were almost ripe bore immature fruit, indicating that they had been collected and that it was in late summer when the burial took place. The oil-rich seeds unearthed in different tombs must have been an important source of food for the locals. Researchers also say that people in those days used the plant for its psychoactive properties.

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