29 Dec 2008 - The Gushi culture, also known as the Jushi culture, were an ancient culture around the Turpan basin in the Gobi Desert, what is today the Xinjiang region of China.
The Yanghai Tombs, a vast ancient cemetery (54 000 m2) attributed to this culture, have revealed the 2700-year-old grave of a shaman. Near the head and foot of the shaman laid a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled with 789g of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions. An international team demonstrated that this material contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. This is the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent.
The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany. A barrage of tests proves the marijuana possessed potent psychoactive properties and casts doubt on the theory that the ancients only grew the plant for hemp in order to make clothing, rope and other objects.
The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China. The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.
Lead author Ethan Russo told Discovery News that the marijuana "is quite similar" to what's grown today. "To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent."