Albany (NY) Times Union, 20 May 1993
The first physical evidence that marijuana was used as a medicine in the ancient Mideast was reported Wednesday by Israeli scientists who found residue of the drug with the skeleton of a girl who apparently died in childbirth 1,600 years ago.
The researchers said the marijuana probably was used by a mid-wife trying to speed the birth, as well as ease the pain.
Until now, the researchers wrote in a letter to the journal Nature, “physical evidence of cannabis (marijuana) use in the ancient Middle East has not yet been obtained.”
The seven researchers — from Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Police Headquarters forensic division — said references to marijuana as a medicine are seen as far back as 1,600 B.C. in Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman writings. But physical evidence that the hemp weed, cannabis sativa, was used for that purpose has been missing.
The researchers’ examination of an undisturbed family tomb near Jerusalem dating to the fourth century AD indicated the girl, about 14, died because her pelvis was too small to permit normal birth.
A tomb in a remote part of China has revealed the oldest stash of weed to be discovered to date.
The cache is over 2,700 years old and was buried alongside an apparent shaman. It’s rare but not uncommon for bodies/mummies in China to be found having blonde hair and blue eyes, in short, of seemingly western origin, which this one seemed to be. Such mummies usually came from the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.
This particular mummy was buried with what was found to be, a 789 gram stash of marijuana which was still green although had lost its unique odour.
“To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent,” says a newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.
Many ancient Egyptian and Greek sites have also offered evidence of marijuana use in ye olden times yet this one, recently discovered, is the oldest discovered and, it seems, was purposely cultivated for pharmacological use.
“The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.
The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide.