Researchers studying an ancient tomb in China have found direct evidence that cannabis was a staple food crop during the Tang Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago.
Previous research into the civilizations of ancient China has shown that cannabis has been an important crop for thousands of years, with historical texts showing that the plant’s seeds were a staple food consumed in a type of porridge. And now archaeological evidence from central China confirms the importance of cannabis during the Tang Dynasty, which ruled the country from 618 to 907 AD.
Cannabis found in an ancient cemetery
In 2019, workers at a primary school playground construction site in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, unearthed an ancient tomb buried underground. After escaping discovery for more than 1,320 years, the remarkably dry environment of the tomb has preserved the frescoes and artifacts found within.
Researchers have determined that the find was the tomb of Guo Xing, a cavalry officer who fought with Emperor Li Shimin, or Taixzong, in a series of fierce battles on the Korean Peninsula. Among the artifacts discovered in the tomb was a jar containing essential foodstuffs, including hemp seeds and the remains of their husks, according to one. Transfer by South China Morning Newspaper.
“The cannabis was stored in a pot on the coffin bed among other staple grains such as millet,” said Jin Guyun, a professor at the School of History and Culture at Shandong University and co-author of the study published last month in the peer-reviewed journal. Agricultural Archeology.
Hemp seeds were significantly larger than those in today’s varieties, indicating that a cultivar of cannabis was bred specifically for grain. They have been so well preserved that some still show their original colour. The researchers noted that the seeds still had their husks on them, which could contain the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. according to Compendium of Medicinal MaterialsIn a book written by herbalist Li Shizhen about 500 years ago, eating so many hemp seeds that still had their husks in them can “make a person run like crazy.”
“Hemp seeds with husks are not only associated with the high content of lignin in their husk and solid structure, which can reduce the chance of mold and prolong storage time, but also may stimulate nerves and cause hallucinations due to husk consumption for religious and medicinal purposes,” wrote researchers from Taiyuan Municipal Institute of Archeology In a report on the study.
A study reveals the use of hemp as food, fiber and medicine
Hemp was an important crop during the Tang Dynasty, providing food, fiber, and medicine for the ancient civilization. But the Taiyuan region was much wetter and warmer at that time, which made rice the most common grain in the region.
However, the artifacts that the Guo Xing family had placed in the tomb did not include rice as expected. Instead, the researchers found hemp seeds, possibly reflecting the personal dietary preference of the ancient warrior, who lived to the age of 90.
In ancient Chinese texts, hemp was known as one of the five staple food crops known as Wu Gu. Archaeologists have discovered cannabis in tombs found across the country, some of which are 6,600 years old. Previously, researchers hypothesized that the presence of cannabis in graves indicates the plant’s use for Spiritual and Funeral Purposes. But evidence unearthed in Guo Xing’s tomb illustrates the importance of hemp as a staple food crop as well.
“Cannabis was buried as food for the tomb owner’s feast and for his health in the afterlife,” the researchers wrote.