Two altars were excavated from the “Holy of Holies” in the Judahite shrine 50 years ago, and chemical analysis has now revealed a shocking find, according to a new study. The discovery of cannabis resin on one of the altars at the Arad Shrine suggests that an ancient Biblical tribe from Israel used marijuana during rituals.
Archaeologists from Tel Aviv said this is the first evidence discovered which suggests that hallucinogenics were commonplace during rituals.
The shrine on which the cannabis was discovered dates back to the eighth century BC, and it is the first proof that mind-altering substances were used for cultic rituals in Judah, including the first Jewish Temple.
The study said: “Cannabis inflorescences were burnt there, conceivably as part of a ritual that took place in the shrine.
“It seems feasible to suggest that the use of cannabis on the Arad altar had a deliberate psychoactive role.
“Cannabis odors are not appealing, and do not justify bringing the inflorescences from afar.
“The frequent use of hallucinogenic materials for cultic purposes in the Ancient Near East and beyond is well known and goes back as early as prehistoric periods.”
Archaeologists from the Israel Museum and the Volcani Center said they found evidence of THC, CBD and CBN – all common elements of cannabis.
However, the team said they are unsure where the ancient tribe obtained the marijuana from.
“The discovery of cannabis on the smaller altar was a surprise. Arad provides the earliest evidence for the use of cannabis in the Ancient Near East.
“Hallucinogenic substances are known from various neighboring cultures, but this is the first known evidence of hallucinogenic substance found in the Kingdom of Judah.”
Lead author Eran Arie of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem described the findings as revolutionary.
Mr Arie said: “Cannabis is completely new for understanding incense burning in this region, and in Judah in particular.”