Ancient Chinese burial ceremonies were kind of lit—at least, that's what a newly published study suggests.
A team of archeologists say they have discovered the "earliest evidence" of weed smoking at a 2,500-year-old cemetery located in Central Asia's Pamir Mountains. The team, led by Yimin Yang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, shared their findings in the Science Advances journal Wednesday.
"One of the long-standing research debates in Central Asian archaeology has been the origins of drug use, especially centering around ephedra and cannabis," Yang said, according to Newsweek. "We were interested in knowing if these crops were popular in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages in western China. However, archaeologists and archaeobotanists have only found fragmentary evidence for these psychoactive plants and it is hard to judge how ancient people consumed them."
Using a technique known as gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS), Yang's team analyzed 10 wood braziers that were found at the ancient site. It turns out the bowls and stones contained high levels of THC residue—a psychoactive compound found in the marijuana plant. Researchers believe the weed was burned and inhaled for mind-altering effects during burial rituals, perhaps as a way to communicate with the dead.
The people in ancient China have been cultivating cannabis as far back as 3500 B.C., using the plant for oil and cloth. However, the findings at Jirzankal Cemetery provide the earliest evidence of people using the plant to get high.
"[The] braziers were burned severely, implying that they were used in the funeral ritual," Yang said. "A special musical instrument was also found, [as well as] burn traces on many other wooden artifacts. So we interpreted that the funeral ritual may have included fire, music and smoking."