‘Smokers hearts’ by Gabriel Ferrier, 1887

Cannabis: A Journey Through the Ages

In 1997, a hemp rope dating back to 26,900 BC was found in Czechoslovakia, making it the oldest known object to be associated with cannabis.  Since that time, hemp has played an important role in humanity’s development.  For thousands of years marijuana was not only legal, but an important crop among cultures throughout history, and held commercial, medicinal, and spiritual value.

Cannabis sativa plant

Cannabis sativa plant (Wikimedia Commons)

The cultivation of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, can be traced back at least 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity's oldest cultivated crops.  Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved in Central Asia in the regions of Mongolia and southern Siberia.  The earliest cultural evidence of Cannabis comes from the oldest known Neolithic culture in China, the Yangshao, who appeared along the Yellow River valley.  From 5,000 to 3,000 B.C the economy of the Yangshao was cannabis-driven.  Archaeological evidence shows they wore hemp clothing, wove hemp, and produced hemp pottery. 

Yangshao hemp cord-marked amphora, 4800 BC, Shaanxi (Wikimedia Commons)

The first recorded use of marijuana as a medicinal drug occurred in 2737 BC by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.  He documented the drug’s effectiveness in treating the pains of rheumatism and gout.  Both hemp and psychoactive marijuana were widely used in ancient China.  The ancient Chinese used virtually every part of the Cannabis plant: the root for medicine; the stem for textiles, rope and paper making; the leaves and flowers for intoxication and medicine; and the seeds for food and oil.  Cannabis seeds were also one of the grains of early China and ancient tombs of China had sacrificial vessels filled with hemp for the afterlife.

Left: Hemp fiber from the Cannabis sativa plant. Right: Chinese hemp fiber paper, used for wrapping not writing, excavated from the Han Tomb of Wu Di (140-87 BC) at Xi'An

Left: Hemp fiber from the Cannabis sativa plant (Wikimedia Commons). Right: Chinese hemp fiber paper, used for wrapping not writing, excavated from the Han Tomb of Wu Di (140-87 BC) at Xi'An (Wikimedia Commons)

The first medical journals in China were made of hemp and eventually it came to replace papyrus as the source of paper that eventually fostered the spread of written knowledge.  It was used to record the deeds of history, eventually replacing clay tablets and expensive silk to be read by everyone. 

From China, coastal farmers took marijuana to Korea around 2000 B.C. or earlier.  It reached India between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., when the region was invaded by the Aryans, a group that spoke an archaic Indo-European language.  They called cannabis “bhang.”  In India, the Aryan religion grew through oral tradition and was recorded in the four Vedas, or books of knowledge compiled between 1400 and 1000 B.C.  They worshipped the spirits of plants and animals, and marijuana played an active role in their rituals.  Like the Chinese, the people of India have a long history of using hemp in their clothing and medicine. 

Wild cannabis growing in Uttarakhand, India

Wild cannabis growing in Uttarakhand, India (Wikimedia Commons)

Cannabis use in ancient Egypt has been recorded as far back as 2,000 B.C., found on scrolls depicting medicinal plants.  It was first documented in Kemet (ancient Egypt) to treat sore eyes and cataracts.  According to Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian Greek historian, Egyptian women used cannabis as a medication to relieve sorrow and bad humor.  In 1213 B.C. Cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Rameses II.  Additional research has linked cannabis pollen to all known royal mummies. 

Seshat, the ancient Egyptian goddess of record-keeping and measurement. On her head is a cannabis leaf and flower.

Seshat, the ancient Egyptian goddess of record-keeping and measurement. On her head is a cannabis leaf and flower. (Wikimedia Commons)

Marijuana was introduced to the Middle East between 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C., where it was probably used by the Scythians, a nomadic Indo-European group.  The medical use of the plant in the middle east is recorded in 700 B.C. in the Venidad, an ancient Persian religious text purportedly written by Zoroaster. 

Manuscript Illustration of Hemp, Cauliflower, and Southernwood

Manuscript Illustration of Hemp, Cauliflower, and Southernwood (Wikimedia Commons)

The Scythians brought Cannabis to Europe from the Altai Mountains to Germany around 2,800 years ago. 

The Greeks make mention of it as a remedy for earache, edema, and inflammation in 200 B.C. 

From there marijuana went to Britain during the 5th century Anglo-Saxon invasions. 

Cannabis sativa, as seen in the Grandes Heures of Anne of Bretagne, (1505-1508). Here we have probably the most ancient botanic depiction of the plant in the western world (male and female).

Cannabis sativa, as seen in the Grandes Heures of Anne of Bretagne, (1505-1508). Here we have probably the most ancient botanic depiction of the plant in the western world (male and female). (Wikimedia Commons)

The Spanish brought marijuana to the Americas in the mid-1500s and the English introduced it at Jamestown in 1611, where it became a popular commercial crop alongside tobacco. 

In 1799, Napoleon brought marijuana back to France from Egypt where it was investigated for its pain relieving and sedative qualities. 

Cannabis as medicine

Cannabis as medicine (Wikimedia Commons)

Cannabis finally reached the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, arriving in the southwest from Mexico, as immigrants fled the country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.  Beginning in the early 1900's, a number of state and local laws in the United States began prohibiting the use of marijuana.  A federal law called the Marijuana Tax Act banned its use and sales in 1937.  Prior to 1937 in the United States (and 1928 in the United Kingdom), cannabis had enjoyed a 5,000 year run as a therapeutic plant with no history of illegality.

Today, the U.S. federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I control substance, alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy.  In recent years, support for marijuana has increased on a national level in the U.S. with the legalization of medical marijuana in 32 states.  Some nations, such as the Netherlands have decriminalized marijuana possession in coffee shops.  In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana. In the last decade, a plethora of scientific research has emerged providing evidence for the medicinal benefits of consuming cannabis, confirming what ancient people already knew thousands of years ago.

Featured image: ‘Smokers hearts’ by Gabriel Ferrier, 1887 (Wikimedia Commons)

By Bryan Hilliard


Blaszczak, By. "Marijuana's History: How One Plant Spread Through the World." LiveScience. October 17, 2014. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://www.livescience.com/48337-marijuana-history-how-cannabis-travelled-world.html.

Elliott, Steve. "Worth Repeating: Humans Discover Hemp, 10,000 B.C." Toke of the Town. July 19, 2011. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2011/07/worth_repeating_humans_discover_hemp_10000_bc.php.

Frank, Mel. "Cannabis and Ancient History." Cannabis and Ancient History. 1978. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://www.walnet.org/rosebud/ancienthistory.html.

"The Tantra-Cannabis Connection- Origins and Implications." The Tantra-Cannabis Connection- Origins and Implications. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://real-gaia.angelfire.com/charas.html.

"Industrial Hemp Fibre." Accessed May 16, 2015. http://hashmuseum.com/industrial-hemp/industrial-hemp-fibre.

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"DEA / Drug Scheduling." DEA / Drug Scheduling. Accessed May 16, 2015. http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml.


I wonder why they got the sexes the wrong way round.

They are correct. The female plant produces seed and the male produces the flowers to pollinate the female. Grown for intoxication/medicine, the males are culled so the females cannot go to seed, producing the oil-laden florets because it cannot make seeds without a guy in the 'hood.

"It reached India between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., when the region was invaded by the Aryans, a group that spoke an archaic Indo-European language. They called cannabis “bhang.” In India, the Aryan religion grew through oral tradition and was recorded in the four Vedas, or books of knowledge compiled between 1400 and 1000 B.C. They worshiped the spirits of plants and animals, and marijuana played an active role in their rituals."

Indeed, the mummies found in western China, the white mummies, were the Tocharians...Toch=Red-headed, arians=Aryans...found buried in one instance with 5 kilos of marijuana. He was a shaman.

It was traded along the Silk Road by the YueZhi...of which the Tocharians were a subset/tribe.
The YueZhi are aka "asii," they used onagers..."asses"... as pack animals. Later known as Assyrians. Assi Aryans.

The Yue tribe of the Wei river valley had a very curious "coincidence": one of their historical/mythical kings built irrigation canals....his name was Yuyu. Yu of Wei. Meanwhile...in Egypt, "Joseph" built irrigation canals...the "Bar Yusef" remains to this day....built by "Yuya"...the asaf Ja....Joseph. Yuya's initials in a temple built for him by "Amenhotep III" was YHW.

Yahweh.....Yue of Wei. Remember that article here on those "strange statues" found buried in China last year?? THAT is Yuya/Yuyu...Yu of Wei. YHWH. Those are just a few of the many titles and names he possessed. Tushratta the Tocharian Mittani/Medes king would be another. The Greek Minyan from Akhmin of the Minya province of Egypt would be another. Atreus, Teres, Attarissija....the list is quite extensive.

Now twist up a fattie, light her'up and mull over that fact....and also think about this: Yuya is supposedly the brother of Nefertiti's father (Ay)...and many people have noticed that Nefertiti has "Chinese eyes." Indeed. She was sent to Egypt by Tushratta to marry Amenhotep III, she came from "Mittani" which traded along the Silk Road. An "Indo-Aryan princess." From a horse riding culture...Eurasians....have you never noticed how some of her images make her face look like a horse? It is obvious...if you look.

Nefertiti...it does not mean "The Beautiful One Has Come." It means "Beautiful" (Nefer) "Aditi" (Titi). The beautiful Mother Goddess: Aditi. Yes, it does.

Her real name" TaduKhepa." Silent "k." The "Hepa" was pronounced Eva. The "t(a)d(u)" is just supposition by scholars: there were no vowels...it was most probably Diti. EvaDiti...Mother Goddess Aditi.

Vedic Aryans....the rulers of the land called Mudriya....Land of the Mud....that Greek invaders labeled "Egypt": the land of Ptah/Buddha.

But that's a whole 'nother story for another time. Try wrapping your head around this new paradigm of the CORRECTED HISTORY...spells of distorted histories backed by mainstream dogmatic "scholarship" not an easy thing to break...You know who the Yues are....there were no "J" in the alphabets back in ancient times.

I am really very impressed by your knowledge of language and history. I have a keen interest in such things and would like to know more. Where can I find your work? Thanks, Rick Dehn

One of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil discribed in the bible is Kaneh Bosm, most likely cannabis and not sweet calamus wich it is falsely translated to.

riparianfrstlvr's picture

herbs have been used since forever and cannabis is no exception. for food, healing or to get high. in the news we hear of medical marijuana and now recreational marijuana. up in Montana they took it a step further back in 2011. while some were smoking it on the front steps of the Capitol building, ruffeling the feathers of the conservative republican  controlled legislature, repeal after repeal raised it’s ugly head in legislature that year. however Irvin Rosenfeld came to Montana and lobbied for FREE medical marijuana that year. he as well as 3 other people get free med. marijuana from the federal govt. grown at the University of Michigan, under the Federal Compassionate Investgative New Drug Act. the Montana legislature saw the compassion in that law and made medical marijuana free there too. not only did the govt. make it free they also increased the number of plants one can grow from 6 to 16, making Montana tied for 2nd in the total number of plants one can grow. New Mexico is the other and only in Oregon can you grow even more plants, 24 is the number if i remember correctly. 2 years later in a constitutional referendum 57% of the people of that great state voted Senate Bill-423 in as the law of the land. now that is way more like an “affordable health care act” than “Obama care” FREE pot from a republican, is that a conundrum, a contradiction, or a revelation? it is all three and i am thankful for the compassion and i am eternally grateful that i am a MONTANAN.



Cannabis is the most useful plant on the planet; food, clothing, shelter, energy, medicine, insight, , re-creation. It has been mankinds companion and helpmate since the beginning. Any law against it is a crime agains humanity , creation and the Creator

Thank you, this helped me a lot. Marijuana and Hemp should be legalized again.

This article, while being quite enlightening and informative, does not make any reference to the difference between the agricultural grade hemp used for rope, bowstrings, clothing, fabric,paper and food, with that used for medicinal and hallucinogenic purposes. It is crucially important that this difference is clearly understood at a time when some far sighted people are seeking to re-introduce hemp as a useful crop, easy to grow, in poor soil , quick growing with minimal input. It was a major useful crop in the US during WWII. However there is much said against it because it is understood only as a drug,although you would have to smoke a whole field full to get even slightly merry.

One of the BIG reasons the United States banned marijuana is because it threatened timber and paper industries which generate lots of revenue, hemp is a free growing resource which means no money for the government. Now back in the 30's, USA ill-legalized marijuana because the plant can benefit many people with its fibers and potential to be made into useful things (ie,. clothing, paper, food[seeds and oils]), and also because it "gets you high" or stoned with its psychoactive traits, they say that is bad, and promotes crime, that is not true with marijuana. The USA government/FDA is very greedy when it comes down to them losing a bit of revenue. From Canada, I say, nice article, thanks.

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