Cannabis, History - Marijuana through the ages
From the Vikings to the Ancient Greeks, Chinese and Egyptians, the history of cannabis is irrefutably woven into the fabric of mankind’s own tapestry. Far from a modern monster, marijuana has been used by humans worldwide in its varying forms for over 10,000 years.
For many of us, this simple fact alone is enough to decry any and all who believe it’s their place to make this natural miracle of a plant illegal.
Cannabis has fought many battles over the millennia, and through thick and thin is still surviving, thriving, alongside us today. With applications ranging from food to medicine, clothing, shoes, paper, rope, and (of course) recreational (or even religious) use, it’s clear that this tenacious plant - one of the earliest crops ever cultivated by mankind - is here to stay.
In fact, one might even argue, as agriculture is the basis of modern civilization, and cannabis (in all likelihood) was the world’s first agricultural crop, that marijuana led to the development of civilization itself - (put that in your pipe and smoke it!).
With this page, we here at SeedSupreme hope to open a doorway for you to the rich history of cannabis - a glimpse into the past of pot and people alike, so that we might all get a chance to know dear Mary Jane more intimately.
So sit back, skin up a fatty and get comfy - we’ll keep things as brief as possible, but marijuana’s storied history takes a while to cover!
Ganja: An Origin Story
While there is some debate among conspiracy theorists that mankind might not, in fact, have sprung from origins in Africa, it’s commonly accepted that cannabis comes originally from the regions of Central Asia and India.
This remarkable plant evolved some 28 million years ago, and was first enjoyed by local wildlife (who unfortunately were unable to pass the dutchie - thankfully, however, mankind cottoned on to the possibilities soon enough!).
At the birth of agriculture itself (around 8,000+ BCE), marijuana was primed, ready and more than able - and without any stigma holding them back, those wise ancient Asians were quick on the uptake.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of hemp cord used in pottery in the area of modern-day Taiwan, dating back to the dawn of agriculture over 10,000 years ago, and further evidence of use in the Oki Islands near Japan from the same era.
While today’s marijuana is most commonly used for its medical or recreational benefits, analysis of the remains of cannabis plants we’ve found to date suggests that the earliest strains had such low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the cannabinoid which gets you high) that there would have been next to no psychoactive properties.
So what happened along the way?
How did this sublime specimen of nature with roots far older than even our most ancient ancestors come to be the point of modern contention, affection, therapy and more? Could it be that cannabis has actually been legal and widely used for considerably longer in its extensive history than not? (We’ll give you a hint - the answer’s yes).
Weed through History - A Timeline
Ancient Asians and Cannabis
8,000+ BCE - The dawn of agriculture and the birth of civilization. With humans settling in ancient villages and abandoning their nomadic ways, agriculture played a crucial role in our survival, and marijuana is highly likely to have been the first crop (if not, one of the earliest crops) cultivated by settlers.
Of course, without written records, it’s impossible to explore the full breadth of what our ancient ancestors used marijuana for, but an abundance of evidence from Chinese burial sites and villages in the region of Taiwan show us the use of hemp in pottery, as well as tools used to pound hemp.
6,000 BCE - By now, clear signs begin cropping up that marijuana seeds and oil were used for food in China.
4,0000 BCE - Hemp starts making its way into textiles throughout China and Turkestan.
2,900 BCE - The revered Emperor Fu Hsi, credited with bringing civilization to China, referenced cannabis (or ‘Ma’, in Chinese) as an incredibly popular medicine - one he claimed possessed both yin and yang (a statement I think we can all appreciate!).
2,737 BCE - The Traditional Medicine Book of Emperor Shen Neng becomes the world’s first officially recorded evidence of commonplace cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
By now, the Chinese were using marijuana to treat everything from malaria to gout and even a loss of memory!
2,000 - 800 BCE - Across this broad 1,200 years, we see numerous signs all throughout Asia of cannabis use, from industrial to recreational and medicinal.
Bhang (a mix of dried marijuana leaves, seeds and stems) appears in the sacred Hindu text (the Atharvaveda, aka The Science of Charms), and is referenced as ‘Sacred Grass’ - one of five sacred plants in India - and regularly used for medicine and ritualistic offerings to the god Shiva.
1,500 BCE - By now, signs appear that China has begun cultivating cannabis for food and fiber. Hemp and silk are in equal demand and the Scythians (a nomadic tribe of warriors from what is now modern Siberia) begin using and growing ganja to weave fine hemp cloth.
Given the Scythians’ nomadic nature, it’s likely that this tribe were responsible for introducing weed to the wider world of both the early Slavic and European cultures.
The Chinese Pharmacopeia known as the Rh-Ya also mentions the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
1450 BCE - Referenced in the original Hebrew version of a recipe for holy anointing oil (as described in the Book of Exodus), the recipe calls for over six pounds of kaneh-bosem (a substance experts agree is none other than marijuana).
1213 BCE - Evidence that the ancient Egyptians used cannabis was found on the mummy of Ramesses II (who died in this year), though pot prescriptions in Ancient Egypt were prescribed for everything from glaucoma to inflammation and the administration of enemas.
The Classical Era and Cannabis
750 BCE - The first signs that the Middle East is using cannabis by now come from an Iron Age shrine known as the ‘Holy of Holies’. A black substance found on the altar here tested positive for both THC and CBD… and was mixed with unidentified animal poop.
Oddly enough, this leads us more towards an idea that worshippers here were trying to get high (after all, this couldn’t have made a pleasant incense - but it would help the cannabis burn better…).
700 - 600 BCE - An ancient Persian religious text containing hundreds of volumes known as the Zoroastrian Zendavsta references Bhang (you remember Bhang, right? The Indian word for marijuana) as a ‘good narcotic’.
What’s more, the Venidad (another volume of the Zendavesta) lists cannabis as the most important of around ten thousand other medicinal plants.
700 - 300 BCE -Those ever-wandering Scythians leave an abundance of cannabis seeds as offerings in royal tombs, showing the religious importance of marijuana at the core of their beliefs.
600 BCE - Locals in southern Russia start using hemp rope.
500 BCE - A deceased Scythian couple are buried in Pazryk, northwest of the Tien Shan Mountains (modern Kazakhstan), with two mini tents which covered containers used for burning incense. A decorated leather pouch containing cannabis seeds was found fixed to one of the tent sticks.
It seems the Scythians had also introduced hemp to Northern Europe by this point as archaeologists have discovered an urn housing cannabis leaves and seeds near Berlin which dates to this era too.
430 BCE - The famed Greek historian Herodotus reports detailed accounts of both the recreational and ritual use of marijuana by the Scythians (who were often employed as mercenaries to the Athenians, thereby bringing cannabis into the flourishing heart of ancient Grecian culture).
371 - 287 BCE - Theophrastus, the first Greek botanist (successor to Aristotle and student of Plato), gave a detailed account of a plant called Dendromalache and its effects, which clearly mirror marijuana.
It’s worth noting that other Greek names for ganja have been suggested as being present too (much like today, perhaps), however, owing to the unequal distribution of knowledge and desires for cult secrecy (among other reasons), reports are patchy.
It’s likely that the ancient Grecians’ use of cannabis was not widespread, and saved more for ritualistic use by prophets and the like instead; after all, at the time, mind-altering substances were considered a path to the spiritual realms, inaccessible to average mortals - a belief likely influenced by shamans from Thrace (closely linked with those Scythian tribes), who inhaled hemp smoke to conjure visions and trances.
200 BCE - The Grecians start using ropes made of hemp, and the Chinese Book of Rites mentions hemp fabric in use.
Medical marijuana is also making a more regular appearance in Greek culture as therapy for inflammation, edema and earaches.
100 BCE - Hemp paper makes an appearance in China.
100 - 0 BCE - The first written account of the psychotropic effects of pot appear in the Pen Ts’ao Ching, recommending marijuana for over 100 different ailments.