Did The Denisovans Love Weed?

Just this week, The New Scientist published some of the coolest new info on the genesis of cannabis. The latest speculation is that as suspected, cannabis could have grown into the psychoactive wonder plant it is today during its prehistoric time on the Tibetan Plateau. This brings the plant in close proximity with early humans the Denisovans, who are now extinct, but coexisted with humans for a time.

Cannabis pollen has been found in many early human contexts, and the banks of the Qinghai Lake is one place where they think it may have developed, not too far from the Baishiya Karst Cave, where evidence of Denisovan activity has been noted by researchers.

One of the primary challenges to the hypothesis is the similarity of the pollen of the cannabis plant and its cousin, hops. The team concluded that seeing tree pollen adjacent to hops rules out cannabis, as hops grow closer to trees while cannabis can grow unprotected. This allowed the scientists to get closer to the Tibetan plateau projection, where ancient cannabis pollen was indeed found.

They wrote, “Identifying cannabis pollen isn’t easy because it looks identical to the pollen of a closely related plant called the common hop, which happens to be used for flavouring beer.”

Beer and cannabis have their places in ancient history, and now we know that even Homo Sapiens more variant human types were potentially using the plant.

Emerald contributor since May 2017

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