In DepthArchaeology

Mountain high: oldest clear signs of pot use

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Science  14 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6445, pp. 1018
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6445.1018

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Summary

Cannabis is one of the world's most popular recreational drugs, but when and where humans began to appreciate the psychoactive properties of marijuana has long been more a matter of speculation than science. Now, a team led by Chinese researchers reports clear physical evidence that mourners burned weed for its intoxicating fumes on a remote mountain plateau in Central Asia some 2500 years ago. The study, published this week in Science Advances, relies on new technology that enables researchers to identify the plant's chemical signature and mind-altering potency. Thanks to the technology, "We are in the midst of a really exciting period," says Nicole Boivin, a member of the team and director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. The new techniques are revolutionizing research into the spread of the drug along the nascent Silk Road, on its way to becoming the global intoxicant is it today.

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