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Cannabis Detected on 2,700-Year-Old Altar in Israel

Monday, June 1, 2020

Israel Arad ShrineJERUSALEM, ISRAEL—According to a Science News report, researchers led by Eran Arie of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Dvory Namdar of the Volcani Center of Agricultural Research analyzed residues on two altars placed at the entrance to a shrine discovered in the 1960s at southern Israel’s site of Tel Arad. Part of a fortress guarding the kingdom of Judah’s southern border, the shrine is thought to have been in use between 760 and 715 B.C. and is now on display in the Israel Museum. The analysis detected frankincense mixed with animal fats on one of the altars. The scientists suggest the animal fat would have allowed the fire to burn hot enough to release the resin’s fragrance. Cannabis mixed with animal dung was detected on the other altar. The scientists explained that the animal dung allowed the cannabis to be burned at a lower temperature. They also determined that the amount of the psychoactive compound THC in the sample was enough to have induced an altered state of consciousness. “[C]annabis is completely new for understanding incense burning in this region, and in Judah in particular,” Arie said. Archaeobotanist Robert Spengler of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History added that the plants may have been imported from the East along early Silk Trade routes. To read about the discovery of psychoactive substances on a 1,000-year-old bundle of paraphernalia unearthed in Bolivia, go to "Half in the Bag."

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