Ancient Israelites may have got high on cannabis during religious rituals, according to new research.
Traces of the drug were found on a 3,000 year-old shrine at the Tel Arad temple.
The site was discovered over 50 years ago but new analysis revealed the shock findings. Eran Arie, lead author of the study, says the discovery is the earliest evidence of cannabis use in the region, and said that the findings contained traces of both cannabis and animal dung.
According to a report on The Guardian, the archaeological excavations at Tel Arad, around 60km (35 miles) south of Jerusalem, 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.
But for decades, attempts to determine the composition of black deposits found on two limestone altars from the shrine’s inner sanctum now located at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem were inconclusive.
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.
Arie added it was unlikely that the cannabis was produced locally, which indicates that it was imported over long-distance trade routes.
Arie also suggested it demonstrates how the Israelites used mind-altering substances during worship.