The Earliest Ritual Use of Marijuana Occurred Long Before Researchers Initially Thought

The medical applications for marijuana are well known, but fewer people know about its usage for mystical purposes. The latest studies point to the idea that burning cannabis for ritual ceremonies began in Israel during the Iron Age that lasted between 500 BC and 332 BC.

The newfound limestone altar that contains traces of the marijuana is positioned at the entrance to a room where religious rituals were supposed to be held inside a fortress of the biblical kingdom of Judah.

Mixture with animal feces

The cannabis on one of the two altars had been mixed with animal feces, so the whole outcome could be burned at a low temperature. Some of those who were performing the rituals had to inhale the smoke. A team led by archaeologist Eran Arie from the Israel Museum, as well as by bioarchaeologist Dvory Namdar was the one that analyzed chemical components of residues found in each altar.

Frankincense is a form of dried tree resin, and it was put on one of the altars and mixed with animal fats. The purpose was to enable the burning at temperatures high enough for producing the resin’s fragrance.

The researchers concluded that the cannabis sample found contained enough of psychoactive compound THC to have induced an altered state of consciousness by breathing in its smoke.

Eran Arie, lead author of the study, declared:

“But cannabis is completely new for understanding incense burning in this region, and in Judah in particular,”

Arie believes that cannabis plants were cultivated from areas away from Israel, more precisely territories that are now parts of China or southeastern Russia. Archaeobotanist Robert Spengler of the Max Planck Institute considers that the knowledge of cannabis was spread to Europe from eastern and central regions of Asia.

The study journal for the marijuana used for rituals was published by Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology.

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