A new study published in the Vegetation History and Archaeobotany found that prehistoric humans used cannabis approximately 10,000 years ago.
A research group from Germany’s Free University of Berlin collected new archeological evidence of marijuana usage by people from Japan and Eastern Europe between 10,200 and 11,500 years ago. Fruits, pollen, and fibers of the cannabis plant have appeared in the archeological record many times before, but the new study shows the big picture of how widespread the use of weed was at such an early time.
Earlier, scientists thought that the spread of cannabis started from Central Asia. However, Tengwen Long and Pavel Tarasov, the leaders of the Free University research group, discovered that the plant had been used both in Eastern Europe and Japan long before the trade or any other regular contact appeared between these two regions. Moreover, people in western Eurasia used cannabis regularly, while East Asian records were quite infrequent up until approximately 5,000 years ago.
The situation around using weed changed with the beginning of the Bronze Age. Horse-riding on long distances became quite typical for this era, thus developing the trade route that would later become known as the Silk Road. With the opening of the new route, cannabis and the ways of its usage might have been transported from the West to the East.
The hypothesis is new, thus it needs more evidence to be confirmed. Marijuana had a high value, which made it a great exchangeable good before the appearance of the first currencies.
However, Ernest Small, a representative of Ottawa-based Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, remarks that although weed’s psychoactive properties are the most valuable nowadays, it does not guarantee that this was the main reason for its wide usage during the Bronze Age. Marijuana has plenty of other uses, and it could have easily been sought after for other reasons as well.