An ancient group of people called the Yamnaya are often credited with helping establish the first major civilisation in Eurasia. Some researchers believe they may also have been the world’s first cannabis dealers. Occupying eastern Europe during the Stone Age, the Yamnaya established the first trans-Eurasian trade links at the dawn of the Bronze Age. A forerunner to the famous Silk Road, this so-called Bronze Road enabled cannabis rituals and culture expansion. Resulting in increased cannabis use throughout Asia.
‘Stoned Age’ Weed Dealers?
While genetic analyses have indicated that cannabis probably originated in East Asia, archaeological records suggest that Europeans used the plant as early as 10,000 years ago. According to a 2017 study, traces of cannabis seeds and pollen dating back to the Stone Age paint a picture of ancient Europeans as pot lovers. In contrast, evidence for Asians getting high at this time is described as “scattered.” Implying that people in that part of the world were slower to take up smoking weed.
Cue the entrance of the Yamnaya. They helped to spread the plant’s popularity eastward and were quite possibly the first cannabis dealers. Around 5,000 years ago, when the Bronze Age began, the Yamnaya mastered the art of horse riding. They took advantage of their increased mobility to travel long distances across the Eurasian steppe. They connected distant places and people, spreading language, culture, and genetics and laying the foundations of modern civilisation.
Importantly, they also set up a trading route in the Hexi Corridor, which ran through northeast China. It would take another three millennia before this Bronze Road gave way to the Silk Road. This became a well-trodden trade link for cannabis dealers and other merchants.
At precisely this point in history, wheat appears in the archaeological records in northern China. This hints at the Hexi Corridor’s role in trans-continental trade. More interestingly, charred cannabis remains also became significantly more common in East Asia around 5,000 years ago, with most of these finds located close to the Bronze Road.
Were The Yamnaya Weed Dealers?
The increase in cannabis use along the Hexi corridor certainly suggests that weed is among the Yamnaya traded items. According to some researchers, the plant was likely used for various purposes such as making textiles, treating illnesses, and getting stoned.
“The multiple usabilities of cannabis makes it an ideal candidate for being a ‘cash crop before cash,’ a plant that is cultivated primarily for exchange purposes,” writes the authors of the 2017 study, suggesting that weed may even have been used as currency along the Bronze Road. This claim is difficult to verify, although the Yamnaya’s pot-smoking legacy throughout the region remained apparent thousands of years later.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived some 2,500 years after establishing the Bronze Road, described how steppe nomads known as the Scythians enjoyed a regular toke. Archaeologists say this reflects a much earlier tradition of cannabis use stretching all the way back to the Yamnaya. From these accounts, it’s clear that the Yamnaya helped spread the popularity of weed through Eurasia. Whether or not they were the first-ever cannabis dealers is hard to say. Still, they certainly played a role in establishing a healthy smoking culture that has persisted for millennia.