Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Canaanite opium obsequies?

ORGANIC REMAINS: Israeli archaeologists uncover earliest known use of opium in the ancient world. Traces of psychoactive drug found in pottery from Tel Yehud; with new forensic scientific protocols at sites in Israel, discovery may herald many exciting new ‘firsts’ (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
The opium residue was found in high-quality ceramic base-ring juglets that were imported from Cyprus and others used in a burial assemblage discovered at Tel Yehud, in a salvage excavation conducted by Israel Antiquities Authority dig director Eriola Jakoel in 2012-2017.

A number of Canaanite graves from the Late Bronze Age were discovered and the vessels removed for further residue analysis.

The opium traces were found in grave goods, which could imply some sort of funerary-ritual use. But we should be cautious about drawing too many inferences from this context. And to her credit, the lead researcher, Dr. Vanessa Linares, is cautious.

Ariel David's article on this story in Haaretz deserves a mention just for the title: Bong Age? Israeli Archaeologists Find Opium in Bronze Age Ceramics. Residue analysis of 3,300-year-old vessels from Canaanite tombs at Tel Yehud sheds light on ancient drug trade between Cyprus and the Levant.

There is archaeological evidence from Arad that ancient Israelites used a psychoactive substance (cannabis) in a ritual context. There is also evidence that the Philistines of three-thousand years ago used other psychoactive substances in their rituals.

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