I love this finding, in part because (as the article notes briefly here) it helps back up Herodotus' account of cannabis use in his Histories. Specifically this bit from Book 4, 73-75:
"After the burial the Scythians cleanse themselves as follows: they anoint and wash their heads and, for their bodies, set up three poles leaning together to a point and cover these over with wool mats; then, in the space so enclosed to the best of their ability, they make a pit in the center beneath the poles and the mats and throw red-hot stones into it. . . . the Scythians then take the seed of this κάνναβις (kannabis) and, crawling into the tents, throw it on the red-hot stones, where it smoulders and sends forth such fumes that no Greek vapor-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapor-bath. This serves them instead of bathing, for they never wash their bodies with water."
What's especially fascinating to me is that Herodotus wrote that account circa 440 BCE, within a few decades of when this find has been dated, and his "Scythians" were probably part of a larger cultural group of Indo-European nomads stretching to what is now Western China.
For those who don't get the reference: Berkeley, CA smells like weed all the time because a lot of people smoke weed in the public. Even UC Berkeley campus (e.g. Memorial Glade) smells weed pretty often.
> Residues of high potency cannabis found in the burners
I wonder what they mean by high potency. I was under the impression that cannabis strength has increased a lot in the past 30 years. Do they mean that this ancient cannabis was of a strength similar to modern cannabis or just that it was higher in THC concentration than a natural plant would be?
> Researchers have found remnants of cannabis at ancient sites in Central Asia before, but the latest discovery points to the intentional use of plants with high levels of the active compound, THC, and to cannabis being inhaled rather than ingested.
> “To our excitement we identified the biomarkers of cannabis, notably chemicals related to the psychoactive properties of the plant,” said Yimin Yang at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Specifically, the scientists found cannabinol, a substance produced when THC is oxidised. Given the lack of other cannabis breakdown products, the scientists believe the plants were selected to be high in THC, but whether they were cultivated or found in the wild is unclear.
While I don't share the GP's taste for charas, 'better' is relative. Many people do not care for this industrial approach to something they regard as quasi-sacred, in the same way that many people are turned off by overly processed food.
There's a fascinating documentary called: 'The Lost History of Cannabis'. It goes through how religion seems to be intertwined with cannabis. For instance the 'anointment oils'. How it probably wasn't Mer gifted by one of the Three Wise Men (I tend to agree).
We can look forward to a Japanese article how they did it first in the not too distant future. Then the various camps on migratory timing to the new world via the Bering Strait will discover evidence somewhere between Anchorage and Santa Cruz. And then the Red states will be screaming about how only real Americans smoke pot.