Until recently, in the ancient Near East, it seemed that drugs were not used interestingly, but residue analysis shows that materials such as marijuana have played an important role in rituals for at least 5,000 years.
As long as it was civilization, there were drugs that changed the state of mind. Alcohol was distilled in the Fertile Crescent at least 10,000 years ago, during the period of agriculture.
Elsewhere, for example in Mesoamerica, the other psychoactive drugs were an important part of the cult. Until recently, however, in the ancient Near East, it seemed that drugs were not used interestingly.
Now, new techniques developed for analyzing pottery remains and describing plant material in small quantities show that ancient Near Easterners use a range of psychoactive substances.
The latest developments in the identification of invisible organic fats, waxes and resin traces allowed scientists to identify the presence of a variety of substances with degrees of accuracy, which they could not think until ten years ago.
Senior archaeologist David Collard, who previously identified the use of ritualistic opium in Cyprus before 3000 years ago, says that robust archaeological evidence shows that old people are getting opium from opium.
Until then, people in the region from Turkey to Egypt while experimenting with local ingredients such as the blue lotus, drugs such as marijuana had recently arrived in Mesopotamia.
Some researchers are still suspicious, saying that ancient texts are mostly silent on such materials. Collard says that the ancient Near Eastern archeology is traditionally conservative
But this work pushes the rethinking of the relationship between material and societies. For example, during the past few weeks, a researcher at the International Congress on Ancient Near Eastern Archeology reinterpreted the well-worked old paintings that represent drug-taking rituals and drug-induced disorders.
Drug use began almost certainly in prehistoric times and spread through migration. The people of Yamnaya seem to have been able to marijuana to Europe and the Middle East
who ruled in Central Asia about 5,000 years ago and left their genes to Europeans and South Asians living today.
In 2016, a team from the German Archaeological Institute and Free University in Berlin found residues and botanical specimens of a plant growing in East and Central Asia in Yamnaya settlements in Eurasia. It is difficult to say clearly that the Yamnaya people used marijuana simply as a rope or as a drug substance.
However, some old people were breathed in marijuana smoke. The archeological excavations in the Caucasus revealed cannabis seeds and charred remains dating to about 3000 BC.
Archaeologist Luca Peyronel said, "When people organize city states, they may have begun to produce large-scale medicines."
Luca Peyronel was part of a team that collected specimens of an extraordinary kitchen in the palace of the city of Abla, northwest Syria, ten years ago, before the ruthless civil war in Syria began. This area was a cultural home that developed on the slopes of Sumer and Akkadian empires 4,000 years ago.
The room is deprived of plant and animal remains typically associated with food preparation. However, as Peyronel and his colleagues have told a article last year, residue analysis of pottery can reveal this mystery: researchers often find traces of wild plants used for therapeutic purposes. For example, poppy to relieve pain, valerian for viral infections, yellow daisy to lower fever. The 40 to 70-liter containers and eight stoves on the field show that these drugs may have been made in large quantities.
Some of these remnants, such as opium, may trigger hallucinations, but it is unclear whether these substances are used for medical or ritual purposes. The location of the kitchen near the center of the palace indicates that the materials are used in ceremonial settings. In addition, the cuneiform tablets in the building are talking about special priests in connection with ritual drinks. The distinction between medicine and drug drugs may also be lost in ancient peoples.
"300 miles further west, and a few hundred years later, the old people of Cyprus used opium in religious ceremonies," says Collard. Residue analysis shows that people between 1600 and 1000 BC, the opium alkalinity, popped opium poppy into a pot of seed capsule
All the vessels related to it were found in temples and cemeteries, suggesting that it has an important role in rituals. The opium pots built in Cyprus were also found in Egypt and the Levant. This was perhaps the first example of the international drug trade
Today lesser known drugs have played a role in healing or self-ridding in the ancient Near East. When the tomb of King Tutankhamen dated to the 14th century BC was discovered in 1922, archaeologists found the child's king's body covered with blue lilies a common motif in many Egyptian tomb paintings . After this plant has been brewed in wine for several weeks, it releases a sedative that produces a calm bliss.
Archaeologist Diana Stein of Birkbeck University says archaeologists have long been unaware of the scenes of drugs and influences rituals. Stein suggests that the banqueting venues, often embracing small seals, Anatolia Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran actually show people drinking psychoactive potions.
Stein also says that another common motif, interpreted as a competition scene, could represent the internal conflict that emerged when a drug smoker faces an alternative reality
"In these images, everything is distorted and shaky – but they know how to draw something realistically when they want it."
Some researchers say that Stein finds these explanations quite convincing and exciting, some are more skeptical, and that they have come out with little evidence to produce great results.
However, Collard is confident that suspects will be slowly convinced by re-examining iconographies and texts, as well as residue analyzes and botanical analyzes.
Science mag. April 19, 2018.