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A Brief Interview With Prof. Yimin Yang, Discoverer of Ancient Chinese Cannabis

Circa-Millions Of Years Ago

Cannabis can be described as a perennial crop. The plant has been grown naturally on Earth for millions of year and then cultivated for thousands. Cannabis sativaIt is part of a small group of flowering plants called cannabaceae, which includes Hops and some other species. This tiny, verdant plant that has a lot of utility was born in Central Asia. It became ingrained in Asian culture.

It isn’t hard to imagine that somewhere along the Silk Road some lonely night traveler may have wondered what other secrets this little plant might possess and decided to put fire to it. A possibility no doubt, but strong evidence that marijuana was consumed for its psychotropic effects in ancient times just isn’t there. Is it possible? 

Referring to the First

Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote this as early as 440 B.C. As part of the post-burial rituals for dearly desised people, the nomad Scythians smoked cannabis to cleanse themselves. His account said that they dug a pit, filled it with red-hot rocks and built a three-pole tent. Next came the next. The throwing Kavvabic The seeds of the kannabis (kannabis) are deposited on hot stones and appear to send up clouds that rival those in a Greek spa. 

When the tent filled with the aromatic intoxicant the mourning Scythians would crawl in, breathe the smoke and according to Herodotus, “howl in their joy at the vapor-bath.” One could reasonably assume The hot rocks also reached other parts of the cannabis tree. (I wonder if that’s where the term Being Stoned originated?)

History is not the Herodotus of today. However, scholars need to know facts. There hasn’t been any historical evidence that marijuana was used for its psychoactive properties. Until now.

You are high in the Mountains

A 2013 international research team, led by Yimin Yang Prof., Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), began digging the Jirzankal Cemetery, located in Central China’s Pamir Mountain Range. The region is sometimes called the Pamir Plateau.

The team arrived at 10,000ft to dig the site and examine the remains of ancient burials from the local indigenous population. This diverse team of researchers included Doctor Robert Spengler (Director of Paleoethnobotany Laboratories at the Max Planc Institute for the Science of Human History), coauthor of the study.

They finally revealed the facts of their finding in the highly regarded Science Advances The June 2019 issue. In June 2019, the article described the uncovering of ten wood braziers at the Pamir burial spot, whose contents held an unrealized and remarkable discovery. A small amount of burned residue and ash remained within the braziers. This was where an ancient secret had slept.

Yimin Yang

Note:Any type of container, holder or box can make up a brazier. These braziers were used in cooking and cultural rituals. These braziers were believed to have been typical incense burners. But high-tech analysis processes would reveal that the contents of these braziers were not typical.

Testing the 1-2-3

Prof Yang, along with his associates, conducted several scientific tests to learn the latest methods for gas chromatography/mass-spectrometry (GC/MS). The first was to analyze the chemical signature of the ash. This revealed that tetrahydrocannibinol, the psychoactive component in marijuana, had been found.

Additional testing revealed that it was not just marijuana. It also contained a strain stronger than the ones found in wild. This suggests that there may be a trade or cultivation. Furthermore, it is more likely that the marijuana has been smoked intentionally for mind-altering properties. It was an historic discovery.

Adding to the team’s success, further testing determined the ancient herb to be at least 2,500 years old, making it the oldest pot ever discovered directly linked to consumption for the purpose of reshaping consciousness. Professor Yang suggested in an interview that mourners may have used marijuana to connect with their spirits or those of the dead during funeral rites. 

Mountain Man

It was a historic find that should be pursued. Professor Yang was in Beijing, so I reached out. I was able to explain. I write for a cannabis-friendly magazine and would like to interview him about his team’s findings. He was gracious enough to grant me a brief Q&A even though he was in a hotel room and on vacation at the time.

The record shows that Professor Yang is an Archaeometry PhD holder and a worldwide authority in ancient organic residue analysis.

Chronic News: Professor. Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview.

Professor YangYour presence is most appreciated.

Were you able identify the kind of marijuana that was found in the tombs? What type of marijuana is this?

No. The taxonomy of cannabis is still a controversial topic. The ancient and burned cannabis had a high THC level.

I’m curious. I’m curious.

Cannabis high in THC often has low levels of CBD. CBN is the predominant cannabinoid found on wood braziers, which indicates that burned cannabis plants have higher THC levels.

Wild cannabis plants would have a pattern that is roughly equivalent to CBD and THC. However, evident peak levels corresponding with CBD and other degradation products such as cannabielsoin were not found in the burned residues.

The GC/MS results showed that the strain found in braziers contained a stronger cannabis than others.


It must have been an exciting time. Is it possible to determine the size of the braziers that contained the cannabis residue you found?

They measure approximately 10-20 cm in size.

Are there any evidence of cultivation?

The evidence is weak for cannabis cultivation. The tomb was found with some poorly-burned stones in it, which archaeologists believe led to the burial ritual.

Do you have any papers that are related to this topic?

It is the first time cannabis residue was chemically analyzed so I don’t have other papers to provide.