About 2,500 years ago, mourners buried a man in an elaborate grave, and covered his chest with a shroud made of 13 cannabis plants, according to a new study.
The grave is one of a select few ancient Central Eurasian burials that archaeologists have found to contain cannabis. This particular grave, located in northwestern China, sheds new light on how prehistoric people in the region used the plant in rituals, the researchers said.
The finding, “a remarkable archeobotanical discovery in its own right,” came about after the region’s modern inhabitants decided to build a new cemetery next to a picturesque oasis, the researchers wrote in the study. However, construction workers soon found that an ancient graveyard was in their way. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]
Archaeologists came to the site and quickly discovered a bounty of artifacts buried in the graves — bows, arrows and the remains of domesticated animals, including goats, sheep and a horse skull — indicating that these ancient people engaged in both hunting and animal husbandry, the researchers said.
The ancient Jiayi cemetery likely belonged to the Subeixi culture, according to analyses of earthenware pots found in some of the graves. The Subeixi were the first known people to live in the arid Turpan Basin (what’s now western China) starting about 3,000 years ago, and eventually transitioned into a farming society, according to Archaeology.about.com.