Archaeologists Think They've Discovered The World's First Marijuana "Dealers"


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Katheirne Hitt/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

5,000 years before dodgy dealers on street corners and dispensaries, the Yamnaya people might have been the world’s first weed traders, according to a new study into the archaeology and history of marijuana.

Researchers from the German Archaeological Institute and the Free University of Berlin looked at archaeological and environmental records of cannabis fibers and pollen across Europe and East Asia. Their interpretation of this analysis revealed the controversial claim that marijuana was not first domesticated in China or Central Asia.


They actually discovered that cannabis was being used across Europe and East Asia sometime between 11,500 and 10,200 years ago. However, according to this study, it was not widely traded until the Yamnaya nomads stepped onto the scene some 5,000 years ago.

The Yamnaya migrated into central Europe from the elevated ridge of the eastern Steppe region near modern-day Ukraine and Russia. These nomadic people had many uses for cannabis, from using hemp fibers to make rope and textiles to its medicinal properties, and, of course, getting high. There were also fervent traders, believed to have established a transcontinental trade route stretching the length of Europe to East Asia and across and over the Steppe.

Around the time they were trading, there appeared to be a boom in marijuana in East Asia around 5,000 years ago, at the start of the Bronze Age, which the researchers do not believe was a coincidence. Their analysis seems to point to the theory that the Yamnaya’s trade empire involved a fair amount of cannabis that came across from Europe to Asia, Discovery News reports.

"Cannabis's multiple usability might have made it an ideal candidate for being a 'cash crop before cash', a plant that is cultivated primarily for exchange purpose," Tengwen Long, one of the researchers, told Discovery News.


However, the researchers added that this was not the only goods these ancient people traded. The bulk of their trade also seems to have included bronze objects, millet, wheat, barley, and horses. With these interactions, they also had significant cultural exchanges, where they transferred skills, Indo-European languages, and pandemic diseases.

Main image credit: Katheirne Hitt/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


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