High times in ancient China revealed in funerary cannabis discovery 墓葬出土大麻 發現迷幻古代中國

Sun, Jun 23, 2019 - Page 9

Marijuana chemical residue has been found in incense burners apparently used during funerary rites at a mountainous site in western China in about 500 BC, providing what may be the oldest evidence of smoking cannabis for its mind-altering properties.

The evidence was found on 10 wooden braziers containing stones with burn marks that were discovered in eight tombs at the Jirzankal Cemetery site in the Pamir Mountains in China’s Xinjiang region, scientists said on June 12. The tombs also bore human skeletons and artifacts, including a type of angular harp used in ancient funerals and sacrificial ceremonies.

The researchers used a method called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify organic material preserved in the braziers, detecting marijuana’s chemical signature. They found a higher level of THC, the plant’s main psychoactive constituent, than the low levels typically seen in wild cannabis plants, indicating it was chosen for its mind-altering qualities.

“We can start to piece together an image of funerary rites that included flames, rhythmic music and hallucinogen smoke, all intended to guide people into an altered state of mind,” the researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Science Advances, perhaps to try to communicate with the divine or the dead. Yang Yimin, an archaeological scientist at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the study’s leader, called the findings the earliest unambiguous evidence of marijuana use for its psychoactive properties.

“We believe that the plants were burned to induce some level of psychoactive effect, although these plants would not have been as potent as many modern cultivated varieties,” added Robert Spengler, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History’s Paleoethnobotanical Laboratories in Germany. “I think it should come as no surprise that humans have had a long, intimate history with cannabis, as they have had with all of the plants that eventually became domesticated,” Spengler added.

The elevated THC levels raise the question of whether the people used wild cannabis varieties with naturally high THC levels or plants bred to be more potent. The marijuana was not smoked as it is today, in pipes or rolled in cigarettes, but inhaled while burning in the braziers. Cannabis, one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world today, was initially used in ancient East Asia as an oil seed crop and in making hemp textiles and rope. The timing for the use of a different cannabis subspecies as a drug has been a contentious issue among scientists, but ancient texts and recent archeological discoveries have shed light on the matter.

Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, wrote in about 440 BC of people, apparently in the Caspian region, inhaling marijuana smoke in a tent as the plant was burned in a bowl with hot stones. The Jirzankal Cemetery findings also fit with other ancient evidence for cannabis use at burial sites in the Altai Mountains of Russia. “This study is important for understanding the antiquity of drug use,” Spengler said, adding that evidence now points to a wide geographic distribution of marijuana use in the ancient world.

The cemetery site is situated near the ancient Silk Road, indicating that the old trade route linking China and the Middle East may have facilitated the spread of marijuana use as a drug. The cemetery, reaching across three terraces at a rocky and arid site up to 3,080m above sea level, includes black and white stone strips created on the landscape using pebbles, marking the tomb surfaces, and circular mounds with rings of stones underneath.

Some buried skulls were perforated and there were signs of fatal cuts and breaks in several bones, suggestive of human sacrifice, though this remains uncertain, the researchers said. “We know very little about these people beyond what has been recovered from this cemetery,” Spengler said, though he noted that some of the artifacts such as glass beads, metal items and ceramics resemble those from further west in Central Asia, suggesting cultural links.

(Reuters)

考古學家在中國西部山區、年代約為西元前五百年的一處遺址,發現大麻的化學殘留物質,出現在明顯用於喪葬儀式的焚香器皿中,可能是人類為了此植物會產生幻覺的特性而吸食大麻的最古老證據。

科學家於六月十二日指出,他們在中國新疆帕米爾山脈的吉爾贊喀勒墓地遺址,在其中八座墳墓出土的十個木造火盆發現吸食大麻的證據,裡面還裝有燃燒痕跡的石頭。這些墳墓也埋有人類骸骨和工藝品,包括古代葬禮以及獻祭儀式中使用的一種角形豎琴。

研究人員利用一種稱作「氣相層析─質譜分析」的技術,來辨認保存在火盆裡的有機物質,結果偵測到大麻的化學特徵。他們發現高含量的四氫大麻酚,也就是該植物主要的精神活性成分,高於一般能在野生大麻植株中測到的低數值,顯示人類是因為此植物致幻的特性,特意挑選使用。

發表在期刊《科學前緣》的這篇研究中,研究人員寫道:「我們可以開始拼湊出古代喪葬儀式的形象,其中有火焰、有節奏感的音樂,以及具有迷幻功能的煙霧,一切都是為了引導人們進入被幻覺改變的心理狀態」,其目的或許是嘗試和神明或死者溝通。中國科學院大學的考古學家楊益民是研究團隊的主持人,他認為這些發現是最早的明確證據,證明人類會因為大麻的精神活性成分而使用這種植物。

德國馬克斯‧普朗克人類歷史科學研究所的考古植物學實驗室主任羅伯特‧史賓格勒補充表示:「我們相信當時人類會燃燒大麻,來引發某種程度的精神活性作用,雖然當時這些植物應該沒有現代栽培的許多品種效果來得那麼強。」史賓格勒也說:「我想,大麻就像所有最後受到人工培育的植物一樣,跟人類有著悠久且親密的歷史,這應該不會讓人感到驚訝。」

遺址中發現的高含量四氫大麻酚,引發一個問題:人們當時使用的是四氫大麻酚含量本來就很高的野生大麻種類,還是那些被刻意栽培為效果更強的植株呢?當時吸食大麻的方式跟今天並不相同,不是放在菸斗裡或是捲在香菸中,而是在火盆中燃燒,再吸入那些氣體。大麻屬植物是今日世界上使用最廣泛的精神活性毒品,原本在古代東亞地區作為種子油作物,或是用大麻纖維編成紡織物和繩索。人類把另一個大麻亞種當作毒品使用的時間點,一直都是科學家之間爭論不休的議題。不過,古老的文字紀錄和近年的考古發現,都對這個議題提出新的解釋。

在西元前四百四十年左右,古希臘歷史學家希羅多德就記載了裏海地區的人們會在碗裡裝著燒熱的石頭,再把大麻放進去燃燒,在帳篷中吸大麻煙。吉爾贊喀勒墓地的發現也和其他地區的古老證據相符:俄國阿爾泰山脈的古墓地就曾發現使用大麻的痕跡。史賓格勒表示:「這份研究對於了解古代的毒品使用情形有著重要的意義」,他也補充說,這份證據現在指出,古代世界中使用大麻的地理範圍相當遼闊。

吉爾贊喀勒墓地位置靠近古代絲路,暗示這條連接中國和中東的古老貿易路線可能促進大麻傳播,作為毒品使用。這塊墓地跨越三片臺地,座落在一片充滿岩石的乾旱地帶,海拔高達三千零八十公尺。在這片景色中,卵石被鋪成黑白相間的條紋,標示出墳墓表面,圓形的墳塚底下則鋪有一圈石頭。

研究人員指出,墓中埋葬的幾個頭骨上有貫穿的孔,也有致命的砍痕和多處骨折,暗示著人祭的可能性,但目前仍無法確定。史賓格勒表示:「我們對於這些人類的了解,除了這塊墓地出土的文物以外,可說所知甚少」,不過他也指出,其中有些工藝品,例如玻璃珠、金屬物件和陶器等,和中亞地區更西邊的文明相似,很可能有文化上的連結。

(台北時報章厚明譯)