Cannabis found in the biblical sanctuary. Archaeologists wonder why it was needed. The Tel Aviv magazine writes about the amazing discovery.
The kingdom of Judea is a fairly well-known civilization of the Iron Age, including because it occupies one of the central places in the Old Testament. In the excavations of one of the objects of that time – the Holy of Holies sanctuary near Jerusalem – archaeologists, by a lucky chance, found evidence of the earliest use of cannabis in the Middle East. Now it remains to find out why the ancestors of the Jews needed it. According to scientists, many of them really inhaled cannabis vapor to get the same effect that modern consumers expect from this plant today.
“Our testimony of cannabis is the earliest in our region”, said co-head of research Eran Arie, curator of the Iron Age and Persian archeology at the Israel Museum. “The discovery naturally came as a huge surprise”.
A limestone altar containing burnt hemp was found in the Holy of Holies, a sacred site in Tel Arad, an ancient fortress in the Israeli valley of Beer Sheva. Excavations in Tel Arad began back in the 1960s. At that time, archaeologists were studying the remains of the altar, but an analysis of its chemical composition did not give any interesting discoveries. As a result, he was transferred to the Israeli Museum, where for over 50 years he has been one of the main attractions.
Scientists decided to re-analyze, but with the help of modern techniques. In addition to traces of hemp, the team also found incense.
“To date, we have no information about how cannabis could have arrived in Arad or in Judea,” says one archaeologist. “However, since we know that frankincense came from South Arabia (modern Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia), theoretically these regions could be used as cannabis trading“ agencies ”.
In fact, another mystery is what role cannabis and incense played in the rituals in the temple. According to the results of the study, plant substances were mixed with other substances to help it char and give off fumes: animal fat for incense and, possibly, some varieties of mammalian feces for cannabis.
Altar cannabis also lacked any noticeable seeds or pollen, unlike ancient weeds found in other archaeological sites in Russia and China. For this reason, archaeologists suggest that it was probably imported into Tel Arad in the form of dry resin, in other words, hashish.