c. 800 - 400 BCE
Graves reveal cultural use of cannabis in north-west China

Recent excavations of grave sites in the Turpan area of north-west China reveal evidence of cannabis use for medicinal, psychoactive and religious purposes. In one tomb from the Jiayi cemetery, thirteen nearly whole, locally produced Cannabis plants were used as a burial shroud. The body was that of a 35 year old male. The roots of the plants were grouped together under the pelvis and the upper parts of the plants were laid diagonally across the body to form a shroud. In the Yanghai cemetery, from the same area and historical period, the grave of a male shaman was found with a large supply of processed female Cannabis flowers (bracts, seeds, and stems).

The people of the area at the time (c. 800-400 BCE) were light-haired blue-eyed Caucasoids speaking an Indo-European language. They were predominantly pastoral and engaged in limited crop growing. Yet the cannabis in these graves appears to have been carefully cultivated by people with relatively advanced knowledge of the plant.

Source: Russo et al. (2008). J. of Exper. Botany, 59, 4171–82; Hongen et al. Economic Botany, 70, 213-21.

Drugs: Cannabis (marijuana)
Regions: China
Topics: Cultivation, production and trade, Cultural factors (social, religious, ritual), Medicinal use of drugs