It has been well-documented that cannabis has been around since antiquity, with the first recorded use of the plant likely written by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung around 2727 BC. But sophisticated chemical analysis that has only been in use for a few decades has made it easier than ever for researchers to learn about how cannabis many have been used in ancient times.
The most recent archeological study has taken place in Israel at a shrine at Tel Arad in the Beer-Sheba Valley. In the 1960’s archeologists uncovered two limestone altars within the shrine, each topped with the remains of burnt plant resin. At the time, however, they were not able to identify the materials.
The new modern techniques have revealed that frankincense was burned on one altar, while cannabis was burned on another. The findings of the research have been published in the Journal Tel Aviv. The inclusion of a mixture of animal fats allowed the plants to be burned at temperatures high enough to release their potent fragrances—and in the case of cannabis—its mind altering smoke.
Whether the offerings were inhaled or not is unclear, although researchers believe that those officiating and worshipping during the ceremonies likely partook of the plant, and sufficient THC levels were found in the burnt resin to indicate that it was psychotropic. It is clear that cannabis played an important role in religious ceremonies of the ancient Judahites more than 2700 years ago.