When archeologists opened the tomb of a Gushi shaman in northwest China, they found his stash. The 2,700 year-old corpse had been buried with just under a kilo of marijuana, the oldest known use of cannabis for purposes other than food or clothing. And researchers believe that he was entombed with the plant so he could enjoy its psychoactive properties in the afterlife.
A paper published this week in Britain's Journal of Experimental Botany reports the find in China's Xinjiang region, where many modern strains of cannabis are thought to have originated. In addition to 789 grams of marijuana, the tomb contained bridles, archery equipment, and a harp, apparent provisions for the afterlife. Unlike other early examples of cannabis use, the research team believes that the marijuana was included for its psychoactive properties. Said the lead researcher, neurologist Ethan Russo:
"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."
Russo studies the effects of cannabis on the brain, including its use in pain management for multiple sclerosis and cancer patients. He and other researchers have been conducting a battery of tests on the ancient weed, such as attempting to measure the levels of THC and germinate the seeds found in the cache, in an attempt to better understand ancient uses of the plant.