The Yamnaya people, the group that founded European civilization, were also the first cannabis dealers 5,000 years ago, according to a study in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. These nomads from the eastern Steppe region (Ukraine and Russia) discovered that cannabis’ versatility as a medicine, food source and raw fiber material for ropes and textiles made it the ideal cash crop or a plant used primarily for exchange purposes.

Discovery News reports that the first cannabis dealers brought transcontinental trade of cannabis along with metallurgy, herding skills and the Indo-European languages when they settled in Europe. The revelation was the result of a review conducted on archaeological and paleo-environmental records of cannabis pollen, fibers and achene from Europe and East Asia.

Signs of cannabis burning were also found. However, this suggests that the Yamnaya did not use cannabis for fun as it is commonly used now but it was only used during rituals.

first cannabis dealers

A dried flower bud of the cannabis plant. Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikimedia

The study was performed by researchers from the German Archaeological Institute and the Free University of Berlin. The research team says that the findings prove that harvesting cannabis did not originate in China or Central China like previously thought.

Scientists did not find any substantial proof that people in East Asia used the herb but they found evidence demonstrating that cannabis was already common in western Eurasia. Apparently, cannabis use only became common in East Asia when they traded with Yamnaya people through the trans-Eurasian exchange-migration network in the Steppe region 5,000 years ago during the dawn of the Bronze Age.

“However, the value of cannabis should not be overly emphasized, as in the Bronze Age the exchange certainly did not confine to this plant,” Tengwen Long, a paleontologist at German Archaeological Institute and the Free University of Berlin told Discovery News. “Bronze objects, technologies, staple food crops such as millets, wheat and barley, horses and pandemic diseases were all possibly parts of the story.”

The researchers say that more investigations are needed. They suggest focusing on the Eurasian steppe zone to shed more light into the history of cannabis use and the Bronze Age Eurasian connections