Researchers conducting an archaeological study of tombs in western China have found the earliest evidence of cannabis smoking so far discovered, according to a report on their work published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Analysis of braziers in the tombs revealed that cannabis plants with high levels of psychoactive compounds were being burned during ancient mortuary ceremonies.

The evidence suggests that cannabis was smoked as a part of religious or ritual ceremonies at least as early as 2,500 years ago. Other evidence has shown that cannabis was cultivated for fiber and grain in East Asia from 4,000 B.C. or earlier.

“There has been a long-standing debate over the origins of cannabis smoking, there are many speculative claims of ancient use,” Robert Stengle, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and one of the study’s authors, told Newsweek. “However, this study provides the earliest unambiguous evidence for both elevated chemical production in the plant and also for the burning of the plant as a drug.”

Origins of Drug Use Difficult to Pinpoint

Analyzing the residue discovered in the braziers, researchers learned that cannabis with relatively high levels of THC had been burned in

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