Ancient discovery reveals unusual use for cannabis

As the movement to legalise cannabis for medical use grows momentum, a once-in-a-lifetime discovery by construction workers in Russia has revealed an unusual use for the drug dating as far back as the 4th century BC.

Workers uncovered a chamber in a vast grave mound in the Caucasus Mountains, in which they found a pair of intricately decorated gold smoking vessels, along with a finger ring, two neck rings and a gold bracelet.

It’s believed the artefacts belonged to the Scythians, a nomadic warrior race that ruled large parts of Europe and Asia between the 9th century BC and the 4th century AD.

Thick black residue in the vessels leads archaeologists to conclude they were used to vaporise a concoction that included cannabis and opium in a ceremonial setting.


Ad. Article continues below.

Greek historian Herodotus wrote: “Scythians used a plant to produce smoke that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass which made them shout aloud”.

All this evidence suggests the Scythians used the drugs before going into battle, an activity that seems quite at odds with typical behaviours involving cannabis or opium.

Anton Gass, an archaeologist at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, told National Geographic: “These are among the finest objects we know from the region. It’s a once-in-a-century discovery”.

The artefacts are now on display in a Russian museum. Experts are examining the detailed scenes that decorate the objects, such as an elderly bearded man killing young warriors, and griffons attacking a horse and a stag, to learn more about Scythian culture.

Are you surprised to hear how the Scythians used cannabis and opium?