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Cannabis utilization and diffusion patterns in prehistoric Europe: a critical analysis of archaeological evidence

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Archaeological evidence of Cannabis sativa is comprised of textiles, cordage, fibre and seeds, or pottery impressions of those materials, as well as pseudoliths and phytoliths (pollen is not addressed here). Previous summaries of this evidence connect hemp with Bronze and Iron Age cultures in Europe. This study improves upon earlier summaries by: (1) accessing a larger database; (2) relying on original studies instead of secondary sources; (3) stratifying evidence by its relative robustness or validity. We coupled digital text-searching engines with internet archives of machine-readable texts, augmented by citation tracking of retrieved articles. The database was large, so we limited retrieval to studies that predated 27 bce for west-central Europe, and pre-ce 400 for eastern Europe. Validity of evidence was scaled, from less robust (e.g., pottery impressions of fibre) to more robust (e.g. microscopic analysis of seeds). Archaeological sites were mapped using ArcGIS 10.3. The search retrieved 136 studies, a yield four-fold greater than previous summaries when parsed to our geographic/time constraints. Only 12.5% of studies came from secondary literature. No robust evidence supports claims of Neolithic hemp usage. One Copper Age site in southeastern Europe shows robust evidence (from the Gumelniţa-Varna culture). More robust evidence appears during the Bronze Age in southeastern Europe (Yamnaya and Catacomb cultures). An Iron Age steppe culture, the Scythians, likely introduced hemp cultivation to Celtic, Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures. The results correlate with a recent palynology study of fossil pollen in Europe. We discuss possible autochthonous domestication of Cannabis in Europe.
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Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
DOI 10.1007/s00334-017-0646-7
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Cannabis utilization anddiffusion patterns inprehistoric Europe:
acritical analysis ofarchaeological evidence
JohnM.McPartland1,2· WilliamHegman3
Received: 13 April 2017 / Accepted: 23 October 2017 / Published online: 10 November 2017
© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
hemp usage. One Copper Age site in southeastern Europe
shows robust evidence (from the Gumelniţa-Varna culture).
More robust evidence appears during the Bronze Age in
southeastern Europe (Yamnaya and Catacomb cultures).
An Iron Age steppe culture, the Scythians, likely introduced
hemp cultivation to Celtic, Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures.
The results correlate with a recent palynology study of fossil
pollen in Europe. We discuss possible autochthonous domes-
tication of Cannabis in Europe.
Keywords Cannabis sativa· Hemp· Catacomb culture·
Gumelniţa culture· Yamnaya culture· Scythians
Introduction
Debates swirl around hemp, Cannabis sativa L., regarding
its taxonomic status, centre of origin and history of domes-
tication. Most taxonomists recognize one species, with two
subspecies. Others elevate the segregates to the rank of spe-
cies—C. sativa L. and C. indica Lam., and sometimes add
Cannabis ruderalis Jan. The centre of origin of the genus is
considered Central Asia, although some scholars offer East
Asia or Europe. Cannabis was utilized for three commodi-
ties—bast fibre (for cordage and textiles), seed (food, seed
oil), and flowering tops (medicinal and psychoactive drugs).
Speculations regarding the domestication and diffusion pat-
terns of C. sativa date back to Ibn Wahshīyah in ce 904.
From his viewpoint in present-day Iraq, šāhdānaj came from
India and perhaps China (Hämeen-Anttila 2006).
New discoveries affirm the antiquity of Cannabis use in
East Asia. Cannabis seeds recovered from a site associated
with the Jōmon culture in Japan date to 8000cal bce (Kudo
etal. 2009). In northern China, Zhou etal. (2011) recov-
ered seeds at a site associated with the Yǎngsháo culture
Abstract Archaeological evidence of Cannabis sativa is
comprised of textiles, cordage, fibre and seeds, or pottery
impressions of those materials, as well as pseudoliths and
phytoliths (pollen is not addressed here). Previous summa-
ries of this evidence connect hemp with Bronze and Iron
Age cultures in Europe. This study improves upon earlier
summaries by: (1) accessing a larger database; (2) relying
on original studies instead of secondary sources; (3) strat-
ifying evidence by its relative robustness or validity. We
coupled digital text-searching engines with internet archives
of machine-readable texts, augmented by citation tracking
of retrieved articles. The database was large, so we limited
retrieval to studies that predated 27 bce for west-central
Europe, and pre-ce 400 for eastern Europe. Validity of evi-
dence was scaled, from less robust (e.g., pottery impressions
of fibre) to more robust (e.g. microscopic analysis of seeds).
Archaeological sites were mapped using ArcGIS 10.3. The
search retrieved 136 studies, a yield four-fold greater than
previous summaries when parsed to our geographic/time
constraints. Only 12.5% of studies came from secondary
literature. No robust evidence supports claims of Neolithic
Communicated by F. Bittmann.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s00334-017-0646-7) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
* John M. McPartland
mcpruitt@myfairpoint.net
1 University ofVermont, Burlington, VT, USA
2 GW Pharmaceuticals, Sovereign House, Histon,
CambridgeCB249BZ, UK
3 Department ofGeography, Middlebury College, Middlebury,
VT05753, USA
628 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
(5000–3000 bce). Seeds from the Jōmon and Yǎngsháo sites
show traits of domestication (e.g. seed enlargement, loss of
abscission zone). Traits of domestication arise centuries
after plants have been brought into cultivation (Colledge
2002). Pottery impressions of cord or textiles in Yǎngsháo
pottery have been identified as hemp (Andersson 1923).
In southern China, hemp rope and cloth recovered from a
Liángzhǔ site dates to 3000cal bce (Zhou 1985).
Most scholars concur with de Candolle (1883), the
founder of biogeography, who hypothesized a centre of ori-
gin in Central Asia, and conveyance to Europe during the
late Bronze Age, ca. 1500 bce. A minority disagree with
this hypothesis. Thiébaut de Berneaud (1835) stridently
proposed a Cannabis centre of origin in Europe rather than
Asia, “If one were to believe the majority of botanists and
agronomists, hemp is native to High Asia, but their assertion
is nothing but a falsehood of servile copyists”.
Virchow (1897) questioned whether Cannabis was
domesticated independently by Europeans or imported
from Asia. Several 20th century archaeobotanists proposed
autochthonous domestication in Europe during the Neolithic
era (e.g. Tempír 1963; Willerding 1970; Opravil 1983; and
citations therein). However, Körber-Grohne (1967, 1985,
1988) critiqued and dismissed all six reports of Neolithic
cultivation in central Europe.
Unfortunately, the archaeology of hemp has been biased
by cultural chauvinism. People naturally seek “we-were-
first” status. Researchers may exaggerate the age of arti-
facts, or overinterpret their findings. For example, new-age
chauvinists have buttressed claims of pre-Columbian, trans-
Atlantic trade by finding hashish “alkaloids” in Peruvian
mummies (Parsche etal. 1993). Langlie etal. (2014) call for
researchers to restrain their agendas and historical conjec-
tures. They emphasize that new research on a crop plant does
not always push the date of its domestication deeper into
the past—sometimes the antiquity of a crop gets shortened
rather than lengthened.
Archaeobotanical evidence consists of cordage, textiles
and seeds, or pottery impressions of those materials, as well
as pseudoliths, phytoliths (cystolithic trichomes), wood char-
coal and pollen. Various types of evidence may give rise to
contradictory interpretations; they must be pieced together
with logic and probability. For example a study of pottery
impressions may report hundreds of seeds from several
crop plants, yet only one hemp seed. Probability suggests
a misidentification occurred, or a taphonomic process was
involved, i.e. a disturbance of soil, causing the downward
percolation of a seed or pottery shard to a deeper strati-
graphic level.
The validity of inferences made from various types of evi-
dence varies in its robustness. The earliest evidence of hemp
in China is not very robust. It consists of pottery impressions
of cordage or textiles. Inferring the plant source that made
those impressions has a subjective element. Abel (1980)
assumed that cord marks in Taiwanese pottery came from
hemp, “the earliest record of man’s use of cannabis”. Abel
cited photographs of Yuánshān culture pottery by Chang
(1968). The “cord marks” in Chang’s photograph look like
incised marks, not cord marks.
Abel dated Chang’s find to 10000 bce. Tarling (1992)
stated that 14C dates in Taiwan are unreliable, and estimated
the Yuánshān culture began ca. 2000 bce, not 10000 bce.
Abel also interpreted cylindrical stones as tools for beating
hemp; he reasoned that hemp was the primary source of
plant fibre in prehistoric China. However, Taiwan was inhab-
ited by Austronesian people in 2000 bce, not by Chinese
people. Their descendants—Taiwanese aborigines, Polyne-
sians, Micronesians, Melanesians—obtained bast fibre from
a native Taiwanese tree, the paper mulberry, Broussonetia
papyrifera. Therefore, we interpret the stones as tools for
making tapa cloth from B. papyrifera. Similiarly, Barber
(1991) commented upon Yǎngsháo pottery impressions
illustrated by Andersson (1923), “the fibres are too coarse
to have been silk; no other fibre-producing source is known
to have existed in northern China”. Kuhn (1988) presented
a list of 14 other plants utilized for making cord impressions
in Chinese pottery.
Hemp fibre, never mind its pottery impressions, cannot
easily be differentiated from other plant fibres. Herodotus
(Strassler 2007) wrote about difficulties telling apart hemp
cloth from linen (made of flax, Linum usitatissimum L.).
Hemp and flax fibres derive from bast fibres, which are
phloem (sap-conducting) cells in stalks. The microscopic
differentiation of hemp and flax fibres has been an elusive
goal for over 150years. Körber-Grohne (1967, 1985, 1988)
pioneered new methods for identifying hemp fibres. She
visualized unique cell wall markings in hemp fibre using
polarized light microscopy, as well as unique calcium crys-
tals, and epidermal tissues in crudely-processed fibres.
Seeds (achenes) are easier to distinguish. The identifica-
tion of Jōmon seeds from 8000cal bce was based on micro-
scopic comparisons with modern seeds of C. sativa, Humu-
lus lupulus L., and H. japonicus Siebold & Zucc. (Kudo
etal. 2009). The published photographs indicate a good
morphological basis for identification. Other archaeologists
are not so confident regarding identification: Lempiäinen
(1995) recovered 151 Cannabaceae seeds from a Russian
site; she identified 53 as Cannabis, 13 as Humulus, and rel-
egated the rest to a gray zone of Cannabis/Humulus.
Seed impressions in pottery have been identified by the
archaeological context in which they were found, rather than
microscopic analysis. For example, Sarianidi (1998) found
impressions in Turkmenistan pottery that he identified as
hemp seeds. Bakels (2003) microscopically examined the
material, and asserted the impressions were too small and
the wrong shape for Cannabis seed. Ukrainian and Russian
629Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
archaeologists have taken the analysis of pottery seed
impressions to a high art. They fill cavities of seed impres-
sions with Plasticine to obtain a cast. They compare the cast
with modern seeds, in terms of size, shape, and even surface
texture. Gorbanenko (2013) provided photomicrographs of
Plasticine casts, and the hemp casts look exactly like hemp
seeds. Mottling from a persistent perianth can even be seen.
Archaeobotanical evidence of hemp in Europe has been
summarized by Tempír (1963), Willerding (1970), Opravil
(1983), Körber-Grohne (1967, 1985, 1988) and Dörfler
(1990), plus two new pan-Eurasian summaries (Clarke
and Merlin 2013; Long etal. 2017). The purpose of this
study was to update these summaries, by accessing a larger
database, made available through internet search engines.
We focused upon primary literature (rather than secondary
sources), and stratified evidence by its validity.
This study is limited to “macroscopic” evidence. Micro-
scopic evidence (subfossil pollen) will be synthesized and
presented in a subsequent publication. Combining macro-
scopic and microscopic evidence was unwieldy for a single
journal publication, although it has been combined in a book
(Clarke and Merlin 2013) and in a project with less dense
sampling (Long etal. 2017).
Methods
The following databases were searched through June 2016:
Web of Science, PubMed, Google Scholar, a database by
Helmut Kroll (http://www.archaeobotany.de) and the search
engines of individual archaeology-related journals. This was
supplemented with citation tracking of retrieved publica-
tions. Our search identified hundreds of studies. Therefore
we placed age constraints on literature that was included
in this study. Because the Romans spread hemp cultiva-
tion throughout most of their conquered territories (Dörfler
1990), we limited evidence in west-central Europe to dates
preceding the start of the Roman Empire (pre-27 bce). In
eastern Europe beyond the Roman Empire (> 17°E merid-
ian), temporal patterns of diffusion were delayed until the
Migration Period. So in eastern Europe we used the begin-
ning of the Migration Period (400 ce) as terminus ante quem.
We also constrained the subjective element in archaeo-
logical inference. The validity of inferences from archaeobo-
tanical evidence is elaborated at length in Online Resource
1. The robustness (validity) of archaeobotanical evidence
was dichotomized: (1) less robust: pottery impressions of
fibre, pottery impressions of seeds not examined with Plas-
ticine casts, and other materials (pseudomorphs, cordage,
textiles, seeds) not subjected to forensic (microscopic) analy-
sis; (2) more robust: Plasticine cast analysis of pottery seed
impressions, and other materials (pseudomorphs, cordage,
textiles, seeds, cystolith trichomes) subjected to forensic
analysis.
The latitude and longitude of each archaeological site was
plotted, using geographic information system (GIS) soft-
ware, ArcGIS 10.3. The results of this systematic search
are presented in a narrative review, structured from an his-
torical and cultural perspective. That is to say, we present
evidence within the archaeological context in which it was
found, beginning with the Neolithic era, through the Copper,
Bronze, and Iron Ages.
Results anddiscussion
The search strategy yielded 136 studies within geographical
constraints (continental Europe) and age constraints (pre-
27 bce for ≤ 17°E, and pre-400 ce for > 17°E). The yield
included 119 primary source articles; we used 17 secondary
sources when original studies could not be traced or located.
The search was aided by digital text-searching engines, cou-
pled with Unicode, and today’s internet archive of machine-
readable texts.
Previous reviews yielded fewer studies, and a higher per-
centage of secondary sources: Tempír (1963) 5 primary and
2 secondary sources; Willerding (1970) 6 and 2; Opravil
(1983) 9 and 2; Körber-Grohne (1967, 1985) 8 and 3; Dör-
fler (1990) 20 and 5 (numbers parsed to match our temporal
constraints). Two pan-Eurasian reviews, when parsed to our
geographical and temporal constraints, yielded: Long etal.
(2017) 3 primary and 12 secondary sources (two secondary
sources referred to one primary study); Clarke and Merlin
(2013) 34 primary and 27 secondary sources (they included
several primary sources published in conference proceedings
not available to us).
The 136 studies are tabulated in Online Resource 2. Each
study is labelled with an accession number and full biblio-
graphical citation, with information regarding its location,
type of evidence, associated archaeological culture, and
details regarding data validity. Secondary analyses of the
original studies by subsequent archaeologists are also docu-
mented. Study accession numbers will be cited below, rather
than full bibliographical citations. This method improved
narrative flow, and prevented the references section from
swelling to 200 entries. Interested scholars may find it trou-
blesome to refer back to Online Resource 2 for bibliographi-
cal citations, which we regret.
Locations of the 136 studies, plotted on a map of
Europe, appear in Fig.1. Locations of the 136 studies are
also provided in an interactive map, available at http://arcg.
is/2k8UX05. Interactive functionalities include site queries
(click on each individual site to obtain its accession number),
630 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
pan and zoom, and changing the basemap (for topography,
vegetation type, etc.).
Neolithic
The earliest evidence of fibre attributed to hemp predates
the Neolithic, and is associated with the Gravettian culture,
25000 bce, designated herein as study #1. (Study numbers
refer to tabulated data in Online Resource 2, and site num-
bers in http://arcg.is/2k8UX05.) The evidence consists of
low-resolution pottery impressions of woven netting, found
in the Czech Republic. Other archaeologists attribute the
impressions to nettles (Urtica sp.) or milkweed (Asclepias
sp.).
Neolithic archaeobotanical remains of any kind are rela-
tively hard to find, and less abundant than younger evidence.
Nevertheless, the few reports of Neolithic hemp consisted of
less robust evidence. They included superficially-analysed
pottery impressions (study #13), cordage that superficially
resembled hemp (#3, 5), studies marred by dating errors or
taphonomy (#4, 6) and poorly-documented evidence appear-
ing in secondary sources (#2, 9, 14).
For example, a study at Šventoji in Lithuania (#10) recov-
ered a piece of string identified as hemp. A photograph
shows the string in remarkably good condition: a two-ply
twist of bast fibre. No method of fibre identification was
described. The same researcher (#11) also reported seeds
of “Cannabis ruderalis Jan., C. sativa L., and C. sativa
var. indica Lam”. This is overstatement; C. sativa and C.
indica seeds are difficult or impossible to differentiate, even
in fresh material, by Cannabis specialists (Small 1975). A
subsequent analysis identified the seeds as either C. sativa
or Humulus lupulus (#12).
Körber-Grohne (1967, 1985, 1988) and Dörfler (1990)
previously deconstructed the evidence in studies #3, 4, 5 and
6. Nevertheless, these studies, or secondary sources based
on these studies, were cited in recent summaries (Clarke
and Merlin 2013; Long etal. 2017). Even Körber-Grohne
got tripped up by secondary sources; she critiqued data in
two secondary sources that actually derived from the same
primary source (see notes in study #3).
Two studies of the Linearbandkeramik culture (LBK)
identified pottery seed impressions as Cannabis (studies #7,
8). The LBK originated in Central Europe, but the late-LBK
expanded southeast into the Prut and Dniester river basins.
The Dănceni I site in Moldova (#7) dates to ca. 5500–5000
bce. This would make it the oldest archaeological find of
Cannabis in Europe, and second oldest world-wide—if it
is valid. Probability enters the equation: study #7 reported
nine Cannabis seeds out of 247 total seed impressions. The
Zimne site in Ukraine (study #8), ca. 5000 bce, reported one
solitary Cannabis seed out of 54 total seed impressions at
eight LBK sites.
Does this represent autochthonous domestication of Can-
nabis in Europe, separate from its domestication in East
Asia? This question also concerns common millet, Pani-
cum miliaceum L., domesticated in China by 8350–6750
bce (Lu etal. 2009). Hunt etal. (2008) catalogued records
of P. miliaceum in Europe that predated 5000 bce. Many
LBK-associated records in Germany were based on solitary
Fig. 1 Locations of 136
studies, plotted on a map of
Europe. Symbology for each
site indicates its relative age
(Neolithic, Copper, Bronze, Iron
ages), and the relative validity
of its evidence (more robust,
less robust)
631Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
seeds, with questionable identification and dating. Motu-
zaite-Motuzeviciute etal. (2013) subjected German LBK
seeds to rigorous AMS radiocarbon dating, and the oldest
ones dated to 1500–1386bc. The authors suggested millet
reached Europe by the Middle Bronze Age.
Motuzaite-Motuzeviciute etal. (2013) also questioned
the reliability of pottery seed impressions. They specifically
questioned the dating of pottery typologies and the correct
identification of seed impressions in study #7. They quote
the author saying the seed impressions at the Dănceni site
were not very clear, and she too questioned their proper iden-
tification. It is worth noting that LBK artifacts at Dănceni are
overlaid by remains of the Chernyakhov culture (second-5th
centuries ce), which shows evidence of Cannabis (studies
#112, 113). Perhaps pottery fragments got mixed by tapho-
nomic processes.
We conclude that Neolithic Europeans did not cultivate
or domesticate hemp. It is possible that wild harvesting
occurred, but at a small scale invisible to the archaeologi-
cal record. Surveys of Neolithic agriculture in Europe do
not report evidence of Cannabis (Cârciumaru 1996; Gyulai
2001; Bogaard 2004; Colledge etal. 2004; Kreuz etal. 2005;
Conolly etal. 2008). Neolithic Europeans cultivated flax,
Linum usitatissimum L., for fibre and seed oil.
Copper (Chalcolithic, Eneolithic) Age
Pottery seed impressions identified as Cannabis at two
sites in Moldova (studies #16, 17) are associated with the
Cucuteni–Tripolye (C–T) culture. The two sites date to
C–T phase B, 4600–3600 bce. Probability enters the equa-
tion again: study #16 reported one Cannabis seed out of
232 seed impressions, and study #17 reported two Cannabis
seeds out of 54 seed impressions. The author of #16 and
#17 reports no Cannabis at 15 other C–T phase B sites, or
at 22 C–T phase A sites, or at 34 C–T phase C sites—all in
Moldova and Ukraine. Stevens etal. (2016) questioned the
reliability of pottery seed impressions by this researcher.
Study #7 included three C–T sites in Moldova and Ukraine
and reported no Cannabis seeds.
Hemp seeds found at a C–T site in Romania were misi-
dentified (see notes in study #18). A secondary source,
which reported Cannabis seeds without provenance (#19)
likely referred to #18. A survey of C–T archaeobotanical
findings by Cârciumaru (1996) reported no Cannabis at a
dozen C–T sites in Romania; he did report flax seeds.
Cannabis seeds have been reported from two sites asso-
ciated with the Gumelniţa culture in Romania (#21, 22).
The Gumelniţa culture was located south of the C–T cul-
ture, with contemporaneous dates. The first study identi-
fied charred hemp seeds, along with wheat and millet, in an
intact Gumelniţa-style vessel. The second study also found
charred hemp seeds, at a site identified as Gumelniţa phase
A2. Neither study described their identification methods, or
provided morphological data, or radiocarbon dating.
The Gumelniţa is aggregated with the Varna culture by
some archaeologists. A Varna site dated 4200 bce yielded
fibres preserved in the patina of a copper object (#23). Polar-
ized light photomicrographs of the fibres are more sugges-
tive of hemp than flax (25µm diam., prominent distinct
dislocation nodes and cross-markings). Two recent pan-Eur-
asian reviews did not mention the Gumelniţa–Varna culture
(Clarke and Merlin 2013; Long etal. 2017), although the
latter did cite a fossil pollen study at Lake Varna.
Bronze Age
The best evidence from the Bronze Age arises in south-
eastern Europe. A site associated with the Repin culture
(3400–3200 bce) identified one hemp seed impression out
of seven total pottery seed impressions (#26). The reliabil-
ity of pottery seed impressions in this publication has been
questioned (Stevens etal. 2016). Three sites in Ukraine asso-
ciated with the Yamnaya culture (3500–2300 bce) yielded
pottery seed impressions, subjected to Plasticine analysis
(#28–30). The ratio of hemp seed to total seed impressions
was high, from 1-in-7 to 1-in-16.
A Yamnaya site at Gurbăneşti in Romania recovered
hemp seed, ash, charcoal, and a lump of yellow clay, as
well as pottery with cord impressions (#31). The author
imaginatively interpreted the clay lump as a cuptoare-pipă,
“stove-pipe.” Another Yamnaya site in Ukraine yielded
textile fragments identified as hemp or flax (#32). Others
have identified the Yamnaya culture as a likely candidate
for Cannabis domestication (Clarke and Merlin 2013; Long
etal. 2017).
Yamnaya burials contain clay censers, which are low-
pedestalled dishes, bowls, or braziers. Some censers contain
ashes with burnt surfaces, “presumed to be used in rituals
involving some narcotic substance such as hemp” (see also
Ecsedy 1979; Sherratt 1991; Mallory and Adams 1997).
These secondary sources reference the aforementioned
Gurbăneşti study, which actually unearthed a lump of yel-
low clay—not a censer or brazier. This reinterpretation in
secondary sources highlights the importance of accessing
primary source articles.
The Catacomb culture (2800–2200 bc e) evolved out
of the Yamnaya culture. Cystolithic trichomes (as well
as Cannabis pollen) were recovered from a Catacomb
grave in southern Russia, with good photomicrograph
evidence (#33). The authors nominated the Catacomb
people as the first to employ psychotropic Cannabis. A
Bronze Age burial at Gatyn Calais in the North Caucasus,
possibly a Catacomb grave, contained Cannabis seeds in
a vessel (#34). An inventory of Catacomb pottery (#35)
reported soot or charcoal in many censers, with pottery
632 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
ornamented by cord impressions. The author presumed
hemp was burned in the censers, and she named hemp as
the most likely candidate for the cord impressions. Sev-
eral Bronze Age cultures following the Catacomb also
evince Cannabis usage (#36–44).
Bronze Age evidence in west-central Europe was less
robust. It included superficially-analysed pottery impres-
sions (#45), the fragment of a single seed (#46), possibly
misidentified fibre (see note in #47), pottery identified
as a clay pipe for smoking hemp (#48), and cordage that
superficially resembled hemp (#49, 50). Many scholars
associate the Hallstatt culture with hemp, but during its
Bronze Age phase (Hallstatt A and B, 1250–800 bce), the
evidence is limited to cordage and cloth that superficially
resembled hemp (#51, 52), and one seed labelled with a
question mark (#53).
By the Middle Bronze Age, evidence of autochthonous
plant domestication in Europe becomes complicated, due
to nascent contact and exchange between Europe and
China. The “Silk Road” did not yet exist, but indirect con-
nections linked Europe and China. We previously men-
tioned Panicum miliaceum, a Chinese domesticate that
reached Europe by the Middle Bronze Age. Spengler etal.
(2014) credit migratory livestock herders with the trans-
port of Panicum beyond China. They recovered Panicum
seeds in Central Asia (at Begash in Kazakhstan) dating
2460–2190 bce.
The earliest wheat (Triticum spp.), a western domesti-
cate, was also unearthed at Begash (Spengler etal. 2014).
Long etal. (2017) highlighted the eastern spread of wheat,
which arrived in China by 2500–2400 bce (Boivin etal.
2012). Mei etal. (2012) document a suite of European
bronze technologies arriving in western China (Gānsù-
Qīnghǎi) by 2500bc. The earliest evidence of Cannabis in
Central Asia dates to 1750 bce in western Xīnjiāng—a fos-
sil pollen study with a surge in Cannabis pollen suggestive
of cultivation (Lia etal. 2011). In this case, a culture with
European roots may be responsible: the Andronovo culture
reached Xīnjiāng by 1800bce (Mei and Shell 1999).
If we choose 2500bce as the latest possible date for
autochthonous domestication in Europe, then six earlier
sites with more robust evidence (#17, 23, 26, 28–30)
support the hypothesis of autochthonous domestication.
Vavilov (1926) would have agreed, “it is probable that
the cultivation of hemp arose simultaneously and indepen-
dently in several places”. Consistent with the autochtho-
nous hypothesis, Clarke (2010a, b) documented that Asian
methods of textile production were distinct from Euro-
pean methods in regards to fibre extraction, spinning, and
weaving. A genetic study of Cannabis population structure
might provide a definitive answer to the question of one or
more domestication events.
Iron Age
Once again, the oldest evidence arises in southeastern
Europe where the Scythians migrated to the Pontic steppe
from Central Asia. Twelve Scythian sites have yielded
seeds or fabric, located in Ukraine, Russia, and Moldova
(#54–66). At the dawn of European history, Herodotus
documented the Scythians cultivating κάνναβις.
Sites associated with two Iron Age Celtic cultures—
Hallstatt (phases C and D, 800–475 bc e) and La Tène
(475–50 bce)—have yielded fabric or seed, in Germany,
Austria, Switzerland, France, Hungary, Czech Republic,
Slovakia and Romania (#67–98). This plethora of Celtic
data partially reflects the density of archaeologists in
these countries. Many authors allude to the Celts as Iron
Age “Johnny hempseeds”. Pezron (1703) proposed that
the Celtic word canab was loaned into other languages—
Greek κάνναβις, Latin cannabis and German kennep.
Thiébaut de Berneaud (1835) reconstructed *kanab as
the Proto-Celtic word for hemp, and argued that the word
subsequently spread to all the languages of Europe. Hehn
and Stallybrass (1885) stated that hemp cultivation “trav-
elled along the great chain of Celtic nations that already
stretched from Gaul to Pannonia and the Hæmus”. Kerr
(1877) deduced that the Celts “brought the plant to Mar-
seilles from Thrace”.
Rather than the Celts, we credit the Scythians for the
spread of Cannabis cultivation in western and central
Europe. Scythian evidence predates Celtic evidence. The
Scythians inherited a hemp history in southeastern Europe,
from earlier Bronze/Iron cultures (studies #43, 44), dating
back perhaps to the Copper Age (#16–24). The Celts origi-
nated in central Europe, a region that lacks robust evidence
prior to the Iron Age.
The Scythians impacted on the Celts by the 7th and 6th
centuries bce. If we consider 550bce as the terminus post
quem for Scythian contact, only one Celtic site with robust
evidence precedes that date (#67), out of 35 sites in total.
The Scythians also impacted on proto-Slavic cultures by
the 7th–6th century bce. The oldest Slavic sites (#99–101)
are associated with the Przeworsk culture (200bcec e
400). Pottery seed impressions have been found at six sites
(#102–107) associated with the Zarubintsy culture (3rd cen-
tury bc–2nd century a d). More evidence appears at later
Slavic sites (#108–116).
The Scythians also impacted on Finno-Ugric cultures.
People of the Dyakovo and Ananyino cultures lived in
fortified settlements, and their art reflects Scythian influ-
ences (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007). Their descend-
ants include the Volga Finns, whose languages have words
for hemp likely borrowed from the Scythians (Gordeev and
Galkin 1985). Four sites associated with the Dyakovo and
Ananyino culture have yielded seeds (#117–120).
633Veget Hist Archaeobot (2018) 27:627–634
1 3
Lastly, the Scythians impacted on the Thracians. Hero-
dotus said the Scythians cultivated κάνναβις, and the Thra-
cians made clothing from it. The oldest Thracian evidence
dates to the 3rd/2nd centuries bc (#121–122); other evidence
was more recent (#123–127). Evidence from other European
cultures not directly impacted on by the Scythians appeared
even later, from the West Baltic Barrow culture (#128), Jas-
torf culture (#129–131) and Wielbark culture (#132, 133).
Three sites in Greece and Italy precede Herodotus, but the
evidence is not robust (#134–136).
Conclusions
Neolithic LBK sites have yielded pottery seed impressions
reported as hemp seeds, but probability suggests misidenti-
fications, or taphonomic processes were involved. One soli-
tary Copper Age site provided robust evidence of hemp fibre
usage. Turning to the Bronze Age, several cultures show
robust evidence, the earliest being the Yamnaya culture.
Material culture during the Bronze Age would have bene-
fited from fibre hemp. Overman (1852) links metallurgy with
a need for rope—for securing mine structures, hoisting and
transport. Our analysis suggests the Scythians introduced
Cannabis to Celtic, Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures. Our
next study will corroborate these results with linguistic data,
by examining European cognates for hemp in Indo-Euro-
pean, Finno-Ugric, Caucasus and Semitic language families.
Acknowledgements Sergey A. Gorbanenko of the Ukrainian Institute
of Archaeology is thanked for alerting us to several Cyrillic-language
studies not identified by our search engines. Connor Brown provided
assistance locating the latitude and longitude of many archaeological
sites.
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Preprint
Cannabis is among the oldest human domesticates and has been subjected to intensive artificial (human-mediated) selection throughout history to create a wide array of varieties and biotypes for diverse uses, including fibre, food, biofuel, medicine and drugs. This paper briefly reviews the available literature on the taxonomy, evolutionary origin and domestication of this plant, as well as its worldwide dispersal, in both its wild and cultivated forms. Emphasis is placed on Europe and especially on the Iberian Peninsula. Today, it is accepted that Cannabis is a monospecific genus with two subspecies, C. sativa subsp. sativa and C. sativa subsp. indica, originating in Europe and Asia, respectively, by allopatric differentiation after geographic isolation fostered by Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles. Palynological and phylogeographic evidence situates the Cannabis ancestor on the NE Tibetan Plateau during the mid-Oligocene. The timing and place of domestication is still a matter of debate between contrasting views that defend single or multiple Neolithic domestication centres situated in different parts of the Eurasian supercontinent, notably central/southeastern China and the Caucasus region. Recent meta-analyses have suggested that wild Cannabis may have already been spread across Europe in the Pleistocene, and its domestication could have occurred during the European Copper/Bronze ages. According to the available reviews and meta-analyses, pre-anthropic dispersal of Cannabis into the Iberian Peninsula seems to have occurred only in postglacial times, and the earlier signs of cultivation date to the Early Medieval Ages. However, the palynological and archaeological evidence used to date is insufficient for a sound assessment, and the development of thorough Iberian databases to address further meta-analysis is essential for more robust conclusions. Some clues are provided for these achievements to be fulfilled.
Preprint
Cannabis is among the oldest human domesticates and has been subjected to intensive artificial (human-mediated) selection through history, to create a wide array of varieties and biotypes for a diversity or uses, including fiber, food, biofuel, medicine and drugs, among others. This paper briefly reviews the available literature on the taxonomy, the evolutionary origin and the domestication of this plant, as well as its worldwide dispersal, either in its wild and cultivated forms. Emphasis is placed on Europe and especially on the Iberian Peninsula, which is the main target of this study. Today it is accepted that Cannabis is a monospecific genus with two subspecies, C. sativa subsp. sativa and C. sativa subsp. indica, originated in Europe and Asia, respectively, by allopatric differentiation after geographical isolation fostered by Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles. Palynological and phylogeographical evidence situate the Cannabis ancestor in the NE Tibetan Plateau during the Oligocene (ca. 28 Ma). The timing and place of domestication is still a matter of debate between contrasting views that defend single or multiple domestication centers, situated in different parts of the Eurasian supercontinent, notably central/southeastern China and the Caucasus region. Recent meta-analyses suggest that wild Cannabis may have been spread across Europe already in the Pleistocene (ca. 1 Ma), and its domestication could have been occurred during the European Copper/Bronze ages (7-5 kyr BP). According to the available reviews and meta-analyses, pre-anthropic dispersal of Cannabis into the Iberian Peninsula seems to have been occurred only in post-glacial times (18.5-15 kyr BP) and the earlier signs of cultivation date to the Early Medieval Ages (ca. 600 CE). However, the palynological and archaeological evidence used to date is insufficient for a sound assessment and the development of thorough Iberian databases to address further meta-analysis are essential for more robust conclusions. Some clues are provided for these achievements to be fulfilled.
Chapter
Multiple plants were used traditionally, throughout history, for a variety of purposes. Many of these traditionally used plants produce various molecules, which directly, and sometimes with high affinity, bind and activate or block from activation human receptors. Among the most effective molecules are those that serve as ligands to receptors found in the central nervous system (CNS) of the human brain. Here we present some of these plants, their traditional uses, the molecules they produce, and some of their modes of action. In accordance, the first part of the chapter describes the traditional, medicinal, and recreational uses of the plants. The second part of the chapter reviews the compounds present in these different plants and their binding properties to CNS receptors. Lastly, insight and suggestions will be provided into the man-made evolution of these plants, which might have led to their high potency.
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Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary exploration of the natural origins and early evolution of this famous plant, highlighting its historic role in the development of human societies. Cannabis has long been prized for the strong and durable fiber in its stalks, its edible and oil-rich seeds, and the psychoactive and medicinal compounds produced by its female flowers. The culturally valuable and often irreplaceable goods derived from cannabis deeply influenced the commercial, medical, ritual, and religious practices of cultures throughout the ages, and human desire for these commodities directed the evolution of the plant toward its contemporary varieties. As interest in cannabis grows and public debate over its many uses rises, this book will help us understand why humanity continues to rely on this plant and adapts it to suit our needs.
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A systematic review of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records of cannabis (fibres, pollen, achenes and imprints of achenes) reveals its complex history in Eurasia. A multiregional origin of human use of the plant is proposed, considering the more or less contemporaneous appearance of cannabis records in two distal parts (Europe and East Asia) of the continent. A marked increase in cannabis achene records from East Asia between ca. 5,000 and 4,000 cal bp might be associated with the establishment of a trans-Eurasian exchange/migration network through the steppe zone, influenced by the more intensive exploitation of cannabis achenes popular in Eastern Europe pastoralist communities. The role of the Hexi Corridor region as a hub for an East Asian spread of domesticated plants, animals and cultural elements originally from Southwest Asia and Europe is highlighted. More systematic, interdisciplinary and well-dated data, especially from South Russia and Central Asia, are necessary to address the unresolved issues in understanding the complex history of human cannabis utilisation.
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The period from the late third millennium BC to the start of the first millennium AD witnesses the first steps towards food globalization in which a significant number of important crops and animals, independently domesticated within China, India, Africa and West Asia, traversed Central Asia greatly increasing Eurasian agricultural diversity. This paper utilizes an archaeobotanical database (AsCAD), to explore evidence for these crop translocations along southern and northern routes of interaction between east and west. To begin, crop translocations from the Near East across India and Central Asia are examined for wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) from the eighth to the second millennia BC when they reach China. The case of pulses and flax (Linum usitatissimum) that only complete this journey in Han times (206 BC–AD 220), often never fully adopted, is also addressed. The discussion then turns to the Chinese millets, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica, peaches (Amygdalus persica) and apricots (Armeniaca vulgaris), tracing their movement from the fifth millennium to the second millennium BC when the Panicum miliaceum reaches Europe and Setaria italica Northern India, with peaches and apricots present in Kashmir and Swat. Finally, the translocation of japonica rice from China to India that gave rise to indica rice is considered, possibly dating to the second millennium BC. The routes these crops travelled include those to the north via the Inner Asia Mountain Corridor, across Middle Asia, where there is good evidence for wheat, barley and the Chinese millets. The case for japonica rice, apricots and peaches is less clear, and the northern route is contrasted with that through northeast India, Tibet and west China. Not all these journeys were synchronous, and this paper highlights the selective long-distance transport of crops as an alternative to demic-diffusion of farmers with a defined crop package.
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The timing, geographical locations, causes, and consequences of crop domestication have long been major concerns of archaeologists, and agricultural origins and dispersals are currently more relevant than ever to scientists seeking solutions to elusive problems involving food insecurity and global health disparities. Perennial research issues that archaeologists continue to tackle include (1) thinking outside centers of origin that were based on limited and insufficient past knowledge; (2) distinguishing between single and multiple domestications of specific crops; (3) measuring the pace of domestication; and (4) decoupling domestication from agricultural economies. Paleoethnobotanists have expanded their toolkits to include analysis of ancient and modern DNA and have added increasingly sophisticated techniques in the field and the laboratory to derive precise chronological sequences to assess morphological changes in ancient and often fragmentary archaeobotanical remains and to correctly interpret taphonomy and context. Multiple lines of archaeological evidence are ideally brought together, and whenever possible, these are integrated with information from complementary sources. We discuss current perspectives and anthropological approaches to research that have as their goals the fuller and broader understanding of ancient farming societies, the plants that were domesticated, the landscapes that were created, and the culinary legacies that were passed on.
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This book is the first synthesis of the archaeology of the Urals and Western Siberia. It presents a comprehensive overview of the late prehistoric cultures of these regions, which are of key importance for the understanding of long-term changes in Eurasia. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Urals and Western Siberia are characterized by great envIronmental and cultural diversity which is reflected in the variety and richness of their archaeological sites. Based on the latest achievements of Russian archaeologists, this study demonstrates the temporal and geographical range of its subjects starting with a survey of the chronological sequence from the late fourth millennium BC to the early first millennium CE. Recent discoveries made in different regions of the area contribute to an understanding of several important issues, such as development of Eurasian metallurgy, technological and ritual innovations, the emergence and development of pastoral nomadism and its role in Eurasian interactions, and major sociocultural fluctuations of the Bronze and Iron Ages. © Ludmila Koryakova and Andrej Vladimirovich Epimakhov 2007 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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Previously considered a Bronze Age lacuna, the Northwest Xinjiang region of China has new archaeological finds, showing significant relationships between it and Kazakhstan and Kirghizia. The new Bronze Age culture of Xinjiang shows close affiliation with the Andronovo culture.
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Archaeobotany concentrates chiefl y on fi nds of seed and fruit remains that were deposited as a result of human activity. Sometimes, however, seeds from the species of the natural fl ora are recovered as well, especially from wells and channels. Studying human-induced palaeo-biocoenoses is of great help in clarifying ancient ways of life as well as reconstructing ancient knowledge in land cultivation. Plant cultivation in the Carpathian Basin is 8000 years old. The special climatic and ecological conditions of the Carpathian Basin, the long period of time that cultivated plants have been being grown here and the accompanying folk selection have resulted in a very high degree of diversity. Accordingly, the regional varieties should be regarded as a part of our cultural heritage, which means that their preservation is a matter of national concern.