By Ilan Ben Zion, Associated Press
(AP) — Israeli archaeologists say they’ve found cannabis residue on artifacts from an ancient temple in southern Israel — providing the first evidence of the use of hallucinogenics in the ancient Jewish religion.
In a research paper, the authors say the discovery from an 8th-century B.C. shrine at Tel Arad offers the first proof for “the use of mind-altering substances as part of cultic rituals in Judah,” including the first Jewish Temple that stood in Jerusalem at the same time.
Archaeological excavations at Tel Arad, located around 35 miles south of Jerusalem, in the 1960s discovered a stronghold belonging to the ancient kingdom of Judah, and at its core a small shrine bearing striking similarities to the biblical Temple in Jerusalem.
Chemical analysis of the samples conducted at Israel’s Hebrew University and Technion Institute found that one altar contained the psychoactive compounds found in marijuana, and the other had traces of frankincense — one of the ingredients mentioned in the Bible for the incense sacrifice in the ancient Jewish Temples, the authors wrote.
Eran Arie, curator of Iron Age archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and lead author of the study, said the discovery was “revolutionary,” as it was the earliest evidence of cannabis use in the ancient Near East and the “first time we see psychoactive substances in Judahite religion.”
The absence of cannabis pollen or seeds from the ancient Near East indicates the cannabis was likely imported over long distance trade routes, possibly in the form of resin, known colloquially as hashish. The chemical analysis from the Tel Arad altar showed it was burned atop dried animal dung.
Photo: Laura Lachman/Israeli Antiquities Authority/Israel Museum, via AP