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Monday, October 10, 2016

RIP with cannabis

Iron Age European-like people in what is now western China buried their dead with cannabis plants. Courtesy of

The skeleton has been identified as once belonging to a Caucasian man approximately 35 years old at the time of his death. Those that had buried him had placed a willow pillow under his head and had then placed a shroud of (13) cannabis plants over his chest reaching from below his pelvis at one end to the side of his face on the other. The skeleton lay in one of the 240 graves in the area known as the Jiayi cemetery. The people that lived in the area at the time were part of a Kingdom from 3,000 and 2,000 years ago known as the Subeixi. Prior research has shown the people lived there because it was an oasis in the desert, one that had become an important place for travelers to rest during their trek along the Silk Road.

Full article: Ancient skeleton covered in cannabis shroud unearthed in China

Based on this paper at Economic Botany:
Abstract: An extraordinary cache of ancient, well-preserved Cannabis plant remains was recently discovered in a tomb in the Jiayi cemetery of Turpan, NW China. Radiometric dating of this tomb and the archeobotanical remains it contained indicate that they are approximately 2800–2400 years old. Both morphological and anatomical features support the identification of the plant remains as Cannabis. Research discussed in this paper describes 13 nearly whole plants of Cannabis that appear to have been locally produced and purposefully arranged and used as a burial shroud which was placed upon a male corpse. This unique discovery provides new insight into the ritualistic use of Cannabis in prehistoric Central Eurasia. Furthermore, the fragmented infructescences of Cannabis discovered in other tombs of the Jiayi cemetery, together with similar Cannabis remains recovered from coeval tombs in the ancient Turpan cemetery along with those found in the Altai Mountains region, reveal that Cannabis was used by the local Central Eurasian people for ritual and/or medicinal purposes in the first millennium before the Christian era.

Hongen Jiang et al., Ancient Cannabis Burial Shroud in a Central Eurasian Cemetery, Economic Botany (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s12231-016-9351-1

See also...

Bronze Age dope dealers


Rob said...

At least he went out on a High

John Thomas said...

Was cannabis the 'soma' of legend?

I've read about infusions of fly agaric mushroom being the fabled soma.

Richard Rocca said...

RIP?... more like "ripped"!

Nirjhar007 said...

I think Scythian related people . No Soma is not cannabis , most likely ephedra ..

MaxT said...


But, there is no evidence of any ephedra in any I.E-related burials so far unlike cannabis. This iron-age burial is Scythian though.

Karl_K said...


Because Soma wasn't for dead people. Cannabis was for dead people.

Strandloper said...

Cannabis was also suggested, also based on Tibetan clues. The Tibetan word for Dekkan hemp Hibiscus cannabinus, is So. Ma.Ra. Dza., apparently a borrowing from the Sanskrit soma-raja "king Soma" or possibly "soma rasa" / "soma juice" which could be the same as "bhang". Additionally, the Chinese word for cannabis hemp is Huo Ma or literally "fire hemp". "

From Wikipedia

Anonymous said...

Having looked at the Vedic evidence, I don't think that Soma necessarily referred to one specific substance. I think it had a primary meaning, but eventually came to refer to anything that induced certain states, both physically and mentally.

It may well be that numerous Indo-Iranian, or other Central Asian Indo-European, called their substance Soma/Haoma, and that the word may originally referred to a state or other plant.


Tibetan and and Chinese only began to receive Sanskrit influence in the late classical period. Fa Hsien journeyed to India because the Chinese Buddhist corpus was lacking, as it probably came from the Tocharians. Considering the dating, it is likely that the word is a central asian reflex of a psychoactive substance applied to cannabis.

andrew said...

Is there any way to distinguish a burial shroud that was minimally processed hemp from one that was from psychoactive marijuana?

It could be that a hemp shroud was used simply because it was a good fiber plant for a fiber application, and I'm not certain that it is easy to distinguish hemp from psychoactive marijuana in a 2500 year old sample.

Also, the earliest known cultivation of marijuana was in Japan, AFAIK, which would suggest that this was a borrowing by Caucasians (given the time frame, surely Indo-Europeans and probably Tocharians or their kin) from the East across an East-West cultural line.

Ryan said...

@Andrew - you could probably just test the THC directly, no?

And IIRC there is marijuana as a grave good in the Neolithic Balkans, so if it spread east to west it did so earlier.

Ya'll should book your trips to Canada - we're be legalizing cannabis with a year. Then you can live how an Indo-European chief dies. (Not entirely serious)

capra internetensis said...


Lol, you are talking to a lawyer from Colorado. :)

Unknown said...

"The skeleton has been identified as once belonging to a Caucasian man..."

I don't think that's correct. This dude was clearly a Bongloid.

andrew said...

@ Ryan @ Capra

It's actually even worse than that. One of my principal areas of practice is marijuana business law. For example, I am sitting in my office right now drafting the minutia of an operating agreement for a marijuana company, while waiting for a judge to e-file a ruling on a business dispute between two marijuana companies, and getting ready to e-file a marijuana related (state) trademark.

But, despite having drafted a lot of language incorporated into a marijuana related patent application, my background is not in botany and I'm always ready to learn from others.

andrew said...

Maybe I should ask my cousin who is one of the proprietors of this website:

(Resulting in some interesting discussions of Soma).

Alberto said...


Yes, they can test if this was a high THC to CBD ratio plant or not. Actually they did this long ago, and it was a psychoactive plant:

It's now a bit difficult to know the origins of the psychoactive variety because nowadays there are many hybrid varieties of Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, and the THC to CBD ratio is mostly determined by selection. But from what I understand, originally Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) had a low THC to CBD ratio, and was not psychoactive (and mostly used for its fiber), while Cannabis Indica (native to Central Asia, probably the Hindu Kush) was the psychoactive one with high THC content.

Cannabis oil with high CBD content and without THC is legal and sold over the counter in many places for its medicinal properties.

But surely your cousin knows quite more about all this if he's a proprietor of erowid.

Strandloper said...

Phylosbioscience is a company working on cannabis genetic history. From what I understand they have access to a some interesting ancient samples from the Altai to work with since the are collaborating with American museum of natural history.

The Cannabis Evolution Project

"The Galaxy is the result of The Cannabis Evolution Project, a two-year collaboration with Rob Desalle, a curator and phylogeneticist at the American Museum of Natural History. We’ve sequenced the genomes of thousands of ancient and modern cannabis samples, and we’re still working hard to tell the evolutionary story of this diverse and amazing plant."

capra internetensis said...


Interesting times!

Marijuana being one of the main cash crops of my home province of British Columbia, I'm actually a little concerned that legalization will be bad for the economy. Do you have any idea what the economic effects have been in Colorado?

I think mind-altering drugs are a pretty major driver of history when you get down to the nitty-gritty. Drugs and shiny things.

Ryan said...

@capra - I think legalization in Washington State has already hurt us more than legalization in Canada could. It'll be interesting to see the regulatory regime put in place. I'm concerned it will be left in the hands of the
provinces, and the provinces will screw it up liked they do alcohol.

@andrew - sounds like an interesting and growing area of law to work in. Do you enjoy it?

andrew said...

"Do you have any idea what the economic effects have been in Colorado?"

Very positive. Because of rules limiting outside investment every step of the process from seed to manufactured products has to be local so all money from the industry except federal taxes and a bit of outside debt investment stays in the state. I've never had a group of clients so eager to jump hoops to get licensed and pay taxes. Lots of people in the industry have dreamed for decades of being legit and can now live the dream. Big bucks are being made in the industry, crime is not up nor is youth use, commercial property values especially in warehouses and marginal retail storefronts got a shot in the arm exactly when it was needed. Unemployment has plunged (the University of Denver has the best employment outcomes for its former students of any comparably unselective school in the nation mostly because so many college dropouts are getting jobs in the industry). Tax revenues from the industry are huge and have allowed sound investments in the public sector.

It is fun to be on the cutting edge and the clients are interesting to work for and I've never seen so many $100 bills in my life (industry participants aren't allowed to use banks), but mostly it isn't much different from regular business law. It started out with criminal defense lawyers expanding into this work, but they didn't have the skill set of business lawyers like myself who know how to handle the issues presented with the novel MMJ twist.

andrew said...

@ Alberto. Thanks. Just what I was looking for and more.

postneo said...

Not that I am getting in to the business... just curious .. can companies take federal tax deduction on business expense Do they pay federal tax on profits?

andrew said...


Under Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, marijuana sellers can deduct cost of goods sold (either via purchase or growing) but not operating expenses. I've handled IRS audits related to 280E and they are very civil about it and tend not to try to rat you out to the DEA.