Archaeologists excavating in the northwest of China recently discovered something truly dank: an ancient body covered in a shroud of cannabis. The 35-year-old man, who died over 2,000 years ago, was laid to rest with full, flowering cannabis plants arranged across his body. This is the very first time archaeologists have found cannabis arranged this way and, because the plants were found whole, it’s the first indication that cannabis was grown locally in ancient China.
The archaeologists explain in the journal Economic Botany that this “extraordinary cache of ancient, well-preserved cannabis plant” was purposefully arranged and locally produced — a striking difference to the small buds and seeds they had found in other burial tombs in Turpan, China. With radiometric dating, they were able to discover that the three-foot-tall plants were between 2,400 to 2,800 years old — 1,504 years before Marco Polo returned to Europe with news that cannabis was lit in Asia. The lead archaeologist on the study, Hongen Jiang, told National Geographic that this discovery is further evidence that cannabis consumption was an ancient, “very popular” activity throughout the Eurasian steppe.
Because they haven’t found any evidence of cannabis seed consumption or hemp textiles, the archaeologists believe that cannabis was used in this area during the first millennium for ritual and medicinal purposes. While we don’t know exactly how this psychoactive drug (much weaker than the kush we know today) was used in these rituals, it’s possible that these ancient peoples understood it was a substance that could bring bliss and pain relief. One thing we do know for certain is that this guy was probably a lot like other vaguely middle-aged dudes past and present — he loved his weed.