Earliest evidence of opium use found in burial site in Israel

Skeleton and pottery in Canaanite grave
IThe opium was found in jugs in Canaanite graves

Evidence of the earliest use of the narcotic opium has been found in an ancient burial site in Israel.

Traces were discovered by archaeologists in pottery vessels at the complex in Yehud, about 11km (7 miles) south-east of Tel Aviv.

They say the containers date back about 3,400 years, apparently having been used in local burial rituals.

The site was used by inhabitants during the period when the land was known as Canaan.

The vessels had been unearthed in 2012 when the site was excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), but the latest findings are the result of a new study by the IAA, Tel Aviv University and The Weizmann Institute of Science.

It is believed the opium was grown in what is modern-day Turkey and brought to Yehud via Cyprus. The receptacles themselves were made in Cyprus, the report says. Described as Base-Ring juglets, they were part of a number of pottery vessels thought to have been given to accompany the dead into the afterlife.

They are shaped like inverted closed poppy flowers, which had long ago given rise to the hypothesis that such vessels were used in rituals for the drug. The discovery at Tel Yehud marks the first time actual traces have been found in this type of jug.

“It may be that during these ceremonies, conducted by family members or by a priest on their behalf, participants attempted to raise the spirits of their dead relatives in order to express a request, and would enter an ecstatic state by using opium,” said Dr Ron Beeri of the IAA.

“Alternatively, it is possible that the opium, which was placed next to the body, was intended to help the person’s spirit rise from the grave in preparation for the meeting with their relatives in the next life.”

Two years ago, researchers identified as cannabis a substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad in south-east Israel. They said it might have been used in religious rituals by ancient Israelites.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-62930429

‘Cannabis burned during worship’ by ancient Israelites – study

File photo of ruins of the temple in Arad
Cannabis residue was found on an altar at the temple in Arad

Ancient Israelites burned cannabis as part of their religious rituals, an archaeological study has found.

A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC.

Researchers concluded that cannabis may have been burned in order to induce a high among worshippers.

This is the first evidence of psychotropic drugs being used in early Jewish worship, Israeli media report.

The temple was first discovered in the Negev desert, about 95km (59 miles) south of Tel Aviv, in the 1960s.

In the latest study, published in Tel Aviv University’s archaeological journal, archaeologists say two limestone altars had been buried within the shrine.

Thanks in part to the dry climate, and to the burial, the remains of burnt offerings were preserved on top of these altars.

Cannabis plant
,It’s believed cannabis was burned to induce a psychoactive effect in worshippers

Frankincense was found on one altar, which was unsurprising because of its prominence in holy texts, the study’s authors told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

However, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) – all compounds found in cannabis – were found on the second altar.

The study adds that the findings in Tel Arad suggest that cannabis also played a role in worship at the Temple of Jerusalem.

Map

This is because at the time the shrine in Arad was part of a hilltop fortress at the southern frontier of the Kingdom of Judah, and is said to match a scaled-down version of Biblical descriptions of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The remains of the temple in Jerusalem are now inaccessible to archaeologists, so instead they study Arad and other similar shrines to help them understand worship at the larger temple.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-52847175

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