Unraveling the mystery of Cannabis
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15th November 2020

Unraveling the mystery of Cannabis

Clara Gibson
The history of place and time of discovery of cannabis has been more of speculation than science. Bhanga dating as early as before 1000 CE has been mentioned in several Indian texts though this has been strongly disputed as not to be the same as cannabis.

To better understand this, it is important to tell between the two main classes of cannabis plant. The first type has psychoactive properties while the other doesn't have this property. There are three species of cannabis with psychoactive properties: Cannabis sativa commonly known as marijuana, 'Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The other type which doesn't have psychoactive properties is the Cannabis sativa L., alias hemp and is used in the manufacturing of cloth, fuel, and oil.

Hypothetical beliefs associate some characters in the bible with the consumption of marijuana have been put forward. Some proponents of the biblical Kings David and Solomon who lived around 990 BCE and 931 BCE believe that cannabis originally grew on their graves. This has been vehemently opposed by archaeologists who believe that the plant has existed for over 2 million years in East Asia and India.

According to Herodotus, a prominent Greek

Traces of cannabis dating back to thousands of years before King Solomon lived have been discovered. In ancient Babylon there is historical evidence suggesting the use of narcotics by prophets. DNA results have indicated Pakistan as its specific place of origin immediately after the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch over 2 million years ago. Thereafter, the plant spread to other parts of the globe leading to its varied species.

The use of cannabis during sacred ceremonies has been identified with the ancient Assyrians who are said to have discovered its psychoactive properties. Aryans later introduced it to the Dacians, Scythians, and Thracians.

According to Herodotus, a prominent Greek historian in 480 BC, the Scythians smoked the hemp-seed both for ritual and recreational purposes. This is confirmed by the discovery of hemp seeds by archaeologist Pazyryk which indicated the probability of its usage by the Scythians between the 5th and 2nd century BC.

In ancient Korea, hempen fabric samples

According to Professor Barney Warf of the University of Kansas, the use of cannabis plants for spiritual and medicinal purposes began thousands of years ago in Asia. Thereafter spreading to other parts of the world. In both Central China and the Indian subcontinent, Cannabis is treated as an endemic plant.

Archaeological evidence point to Mongolia and southern Siberia as the point of evolution of the plant. Cannabis achenes dating to 8000 BC were discovered in Oki Island, an archaeological site near Japan while in China the imprints of hemp fiber dating back to the Neolithic period were discovered in Yang Shao archaeological site.

In ancient Korea, hempen fabric samples dating back as early as 3000 BCE. Siberia's burial grounds of Kurgan, burned cannabis seeds dating back to 3000 BC have been discovered. A similar discovery has been made in the tombs of prominent persons in Xinjiang dating to around 2500 BC with significant amounts of psychoactive cannabis species.

Unraveling the mystery of Cannabis

There are also stories of Emperor Shen Nung of China having used cannabis in 2737 BC. Historical records indicate that the plant's medicinal use dates as early as 4000 B.C. According to the archaeology of Korea, cannabis was taken there by the coastal farmers from China between 2000 BC and 1000 BC.

Cannabis was used by the Scythians in the Middle East between 2000 BC and 1400 BC after which they are believed to have carried the drug into Ukraine and Russia where they stayed for years. From there the drug was taken to Germany then to Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasions during the 5th century. The remains of the seeds of the plant were also discovered in Viking ships dating back to the mid-ninth century.

Migration of cannabis to other parts of the world continued as it spread into Africa before reaching South America in the 19th century and later to North America. In the United States, cannabis arrived during the 20th century from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1911.

There have been several scientific studies to determine the initial place of origin of cannabis. Consequently several theories have emanated from various sources giving similar and sometimes contradicting information. The study is work in progress with new discoveries being realized every day. However, historical facts at the moment suggest the earliest place of use to be East Asia as explained above.

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