CANNABIS CULTIVATION – Until recently, many Egyptologists did not see a significant role for cannabis in ancient Egypt aside from its role as a source of fiber for cords, but recent research identifying a plant in Egyptian texts with fiber and medicinal properties and edible seeds, called Shemshmet, or sm-sm-t, is now widely considered to identify cannabis.

Cannabis extract and soma solution.

In ancient Egypt, it was believed that the Shemshmet of medicinal herbs was the creation of the sun god Ra. In addition to this linguistic resource, analysis of pollen from ancient soil layers and deep tissue samples from Egyptian mummies has shown that cannabis played an important role in Egypt, as in the rest of the ancient world.

In fact, from about 3,000b. Chr. Evidence of cannabis pollen in Egypt.  According to the Codex of Ancient Egyptian Plant Remains (1997), pollen from the Predynastic period (ca. 3500-3100 BC) has been found at Egyptian sites. Chr.; 12th dynasty (ca. 1991-1786. ) including not only pollen but also a hemp fiber (ball); from the 19th century. Dynasty (ca. 1293-1185 BCE), found with the mummy of Ramses II, and the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BCE) (Vartavan and Asensi, 1997).


shemshet is the Egyptian word for cannabis.

There is general agreement with Dawson (1934a) that Shemshmet means cannabis, and his identification was strongly supported by the use of hemp strings. As a medicine, it has remained in use since the time of the pharaohs. It was… injected through the mouth, rectum, vagina, blindfolded, smeared on the eyes and smoked. However, these claims do not provide clear evidence of awareness of the effects of cannabis on the central nervous system. (La religieuse, 2002)

Although most modern Egyptologists recognize hemp’s role as a source of fiber and as a medicine, few consider it an intoxicating ritual, and many researchers claim that the Egyptians were unaware of these properties. As mentioned in the Mummy Convention:

During the reign of the Pharaohs, Egyptian traders coveted sativa cannabis seeds. Their Asian neighbors valued the plant for its hemp fiber, and the Egyptians seemed to have a similar interest in it. They crossed the stems and twisted the fibers into strong ropes and ground the plant into a soothing eye tonic, a treatment they wrote down in a medical papyrus. But the Egyptians barely mentioned the other parts of C. sativa – the flowering buds and leaves that produce the marijuana, or the dark resin that produces the hashish. (Pringle, 2001)

Professor Jan Kabelik spoke about Shemsemzem: Egyptian medical papyrus has provided information about a plant that could be used to make shackles, and it was probably cannabis:

But no trace of his drug activities was found. The preparations made from them (in all probability from hemp shoots) were used externally, only as an antiseptic and then possibly as an analgesic, as in Hellenic medicine. Cannabis extracts were used for irrigation in diseases of the anus, and in the form of poultices the drug was used to treat diseased nails. The papyrus of Ramses recommends washing your eyes with hemp extracts and with another plant. The Berlin Papyrus recommends cannabis fumigation for an unspecified disease. (Kabelik, 1955)

It would indeed be difficult to identify the use of cannabis under the name of Shemshmet, but as we shall see, the Egyptians, like other cultures, possessed ritual knowledge as secret knowledge, so that the evidence of such use probably lies in veiled references. Realistically, even medical use was laced with magical and religious connotations. …[Most doctors in Egypt were priests…. Elements of religion and magic were closely associated with drug use, and spells were generally recited prior to administration to endow them with healing properties (Spencer, 2000). Like the gardens of the Assyrian temples, where the tree of life is said to have grown, the Egyptians most likely cultivated shemshmet and other sacred plants:

Given the highly developed pharmacopoeia of the Egyptians, they must have had physical gardens, most likely connected to the temple, since the knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants was concentrated among the priests. (Manniche, 1989).

Egyptian medical texts referring to cannabis include the papyrus of Raamsey III (1700 B.C.), the papyrus of Eber (1600 B.C.), the papyrus of Berlin (1300 B.C.), and the papyrus of Chester Beatty VI (1300 B.C.). Perhaps because of honey’s viscosity and stickiness, it has been used in a number of topical Egyptian medicines to complement cannabis-based medicines. According to ancient papyrus, these topical cannabis preparations were used to treat vaginal inflammation and ingrown toenails (Ghalioungui 1963). The medical use of cannabis in Egypt attests to a thorough knowledge of the efficacy of herbal remedies, and virtually all products containing cannabis are used in methods whose medicinal efficacy has been proven (Russo, 2006/2007).

If the smsm.t character of the medical papyrus of ancient Egypt refers to cannabis, it was used as incense, as an oral remedy for mother and child (during childbirth?), in enemas, in ophthalmology and as an ointment in bandages. This may be the first mention in world literature of an ophthalmic remedy. (Hook, 1997).

The reference to ophthalmology identified by Matre is found in the papyrus of Raamessey III (1700 BC), and is believed to be in a prescription for the treatment of glaucoma, and is translated as A Remedy for the Eyes : Eye treatment: Celery; shemshmet [cannabis] pounded and laid in dew overnight. Both eyes of the patient should be rinsed out in the morning.

Rameseum III papyrus fragments

Although the extant copy of the bear papyrus dates from about 1600 B.C., it is not known whether the bear papyrus has been preserved. Chr. and is thus the oldest complete medical textbook known, many researchers believe it was derived from an even older text dating to about 3100 B.C. Chr. Chr. was copied. Eber’s papyrus is called a uterine cold sore: Hemp bird crushed in honey and inserted into the vagina. Hemp [semscheme] is ground into honey and inserted into the vagina. It causes the uterus to contract. Ebers papyrus also refers to the topical use of cannabis for ingrown toenails or toenails, and is mixed with carob to be used in an enema or combined with other remedies and used as a poultice. A papyrus from Berlin (1300 BC) mentions a topical treatment for edema: An anti-inflammatory: Leaves (or flowers?) of hemp and pure oil. Hemp leaves and pure oil. Use it as a salve. Use it as a salve.

Ebers papyrus (1550 B.C.) mentions cannabis as an enema infusion and as an external poultice for infections. For more information on cannabis medicine in ancient Egypt, see the Ancient Book of Cannabis.

In the second millennium BC. However, the term Shemshmet already appears in the texts of the pyramids, which were written down a millennium earlier, always in connection with the manufacture of ropes. Pieces of cannabis were identified in the tomb of Amenhopis IV (Akhkenaten) at El Arman (Manniche, 1989). As with the ritual use of fibers associated with Haoma/Soma and the Assyrian Tree of Life, it is interesting to note that here in Egypt Shemshmet was considered a sacred fiber and was mentioned in context as a means of bridging the gap between heaven and earth.

Rope ladder to heaven

In the text of the pyramid of Unas, which seems to refer to the king’s ascension to heaven through the northern passage of his pyramid, the hemp ropes seem to be a means of ascending to the starry heavens. In an ancient inscription, the devotee is invited to say the following words in praise of the celestial bull Unas, who is the guide of the dead to heaven:

This Unas is a bull with a double glare in the middle of his eye. The mouth of the Unas is sure by the fiery breath, the head of the Unas by the horns of the Lord of the South. We have God to guide us…. Unas turned the SmSm.t plants into ropes. unas united (zmA) the heavens….

Or as Budge translates it: He lifts the ropes (fibers?) of the helmet plant, he reaches the sky (Budge, 1911). A similar reference to hemp ropes is found in the mythology of the goddess Seshat, who appears to be holding the rope and handle in the image below. Even more interesting is the image that appears above the head of the ancient goddess.

Seshat, Egyptian goddess of writing and measuring, perhaps holding a hemp rope to the sky, a cannabis stem to measure, and with a cannabis leaf on her head?

Several scholars have noted similarities between the hemp leaf and the symbol painted on the head of the goddess Seshat in Egyptian representations. Seshat was an Egyptian goddess of temple architecture and mistress of the scribes who headed the House of Life, also known as the Book House. This temple was a kind of library and school of knowledge and served as a repository for texts on traditions and rituals. From the earliest times of Egypt, the main function of the seshat was to help the king pull the rope for the construction of temples and royal buildings.

Author and researcher H. Peter Aleff has developed a fascinating theory that this symbol is related to the use of hemp strings. In accordance with the pictorial canon of ancient Egypt, the artists who represented Seshat, the goddess of measurement and geometry, engraved images of her principal instruments or of symbols easily recognizable to them. Their emblem ingeniously combined the charms of these instruments:

Many Egyptologists have long speculated about the emblem that Seshat wore as a headdress.  Sir Alan Gardiner, always in the lead in his Egyptian Grammar, describes it as a conventional flower (?) perpetuated by horns.   The question mark after the word flower indicates that there is hardly a flower that resembles this construction.  Others called it a star crowned with a bow, but the stars of the ancient Egyptian convention had five points, not seven as in the emblem of Seshat.  This number was so great that King Thutmes III. (1479-1425 B.C.) to call it Sefhet-Abvi, or She of the Seven Points.

Such groping speculations are unnecessary, since the various elements of Seshat’s emblem simply represent in hieroglyphic fashion the tools of his geometric craft.

The seven-pointed flower or star is an exact replica of a cannabis leaf.  This leaf consists of seven pointed parts arranged in the same order as the main figure in the emblem of Seshat.  Hemp has long been an excellent material for the manufacture of low elongation rope, which is necessary for measuring rope, especially when lubricated to reduce fluctuations in moisture content that would affect elongation.

The distinctive plant leaf used for these strings was therefore a logical choice for an emblem maker who wanted to make an easily recognizable reference to Seshat’s work.  This leaf is so unique that it cannot be confused with any other object…. The hemp leaf in Seshat’s emblem is irrefutable proof that ancient Egyptian tailors used hemp for their dimensional ropes, and that Seshat cannot deny its patronage and its currently illegal possession of this psychoactive plant.

Add to this the obvious reference to the texts on coffins which state 10 : Seshat opens for you the gate of heaven (7), and the evidence against her is strong enough to be taken if she is still practicing her profession today. (Aleph, 1982/2008).

References in the story of Unas Bull and references in the story of Seshat may symbolically refer to cannabis as a means of reaching heaven. In this context it is interesting that Catherine Grendorge mentions cannabis in a funeral offering : Some of the Theban graves mention a victim of… Plants for the deceased… [including] smt [shemsemet, cannabis]… After the Tomb of Neferhotep…. The smsmt plantation was established by Re (Graindorge, 1992). Unfortunately, the nature of this sacrifice is not clear (fibres?, food?, incense?, drink?), but it seems to have taken place on some occasions as part of a private funeral service in which ka priests or the family of the deceased Theban performed libations and fumigations in the funeral chapel (Graindorge, 1992). A situation certainly reminiscent of the Scythian funeral rites mentioned above and the stabbing with burning hemp.

Evidence of entheogenic use of cannabis in ancient Egypt?

Not all Egyptologists agree that the ancient Egyptians were unaware of the potentially powerful narcotic effects of cannabis, properties of a plant that was highly valued by many cultures with which the Egyptians traded. As Rosalie David, curator of Egyptology at the Manchester Museum, noted, the Egyptians were known for using a variety of psychoactive substances:

Lotus was a very powerful drug used in ancient Egypt and this use was probably very widespread, as there are many scenes of people holding a bowl and dipping a lotus flower into a bowl of wine and this would have been a way to release the drug.

The ancient Egyptians certainly used drugs. In addition to lotus, they also had mandrake and hemp, and most likely used opium….. [these] items were definitely used. (David, 1996).

Given that the Egyptians traded with crops that used cannabis for its intoxicating properties, it is difficult to accept that these clearly advanced herbalists, who had a precise knowledge of its medicinal properties, somehow failed to recognize the provocative state that could be induced by burning or ingesting the plant, a property that was highly valued by their trading partners.

According to the author, there are a number of references to the use of cannabis for entheogenic consumption that can be drawn from the accumulated knowledge of ancient Egyptian legend.  Possible sources of this type of cannabis use include Kythian incense and perfume, the Nefente potion, the sacred bush and the Maat plant.

In another article, I described in detail the mythical mourning wine, Nepenthe, and as noted in that article, infusing cannabis has been widely suggested based on the evidence and description.

Keefe, Perfume Welcome to the Gods

Offering incense

Some sources suggest that cannabis was an ingredient in ancient incense and spirits of the pharaohs, known as kifi.  Kifi was used as an offering to the gods. When the sun set, Egyptian worshippers would burn this fragrant spirit to alter the preparations of the sun god RA (who created cannabis) and pray for his return the following morning. Because of the medicinal properties of the ingredients, kifi is applied to the skin to heal wounds. It was also considered a powerful relaxant and aphrodisiac. Unlike the ointments of the Assyrians, the kifs were rather hard and waxy, like a decoction. A kifi cone was placed on the head, and as the Egyptian sun and the body temperature of the devotee warmed it, the powerful ingredients of the preparation slowly melted and dripped from the head to the body.

Researchers have suggested more than 50 natural ingredients for making kifi, probably the most popular: Aloe wood, benzoin, cannabis resin, cardamom seed, cassia, cedar wood, copal, frankincense, galanga root, ginger, honey, archie, lemongrass, putty, mint, myrrh, orris, pistachio, raisins, red wine, rose petals, saffron, sandalwood, storix balsam. Archaeologist Joel Zias, who has found evidence of the use of psychoactive substances on artifacts from ancient Middle Eastern cultures, notes that the Egyptians wrote a lot about medicines, but the formula is always a little of this and a little of that, so you can never know the exact method of reproduction. Hashish was very common, as was opium (Zias, 2005).

In 1920 the occultist Oliver Bland, after mentioning several of the proposed ingredients for kifi and showing some knowledge of its preparation, proposed the following etymological suggestion, unconfirmed but interesting:

The key to the mystery of ancient incense lies not in what we have been able to extract from papairi, but in the word itself. Kiphis are now recognized as Kifu, the vernacular name for the smoking herb Cannabis Indica, or Indian hemp.

Cannabis Indica is none other than our friend Hashish….. After all, it’s not that far from the mysteries of Osiris in Egypt….. Osiris… died every year, and the mimicry of this symbolic event was the basis of the whole ritual. In the commands were the initials death: but death was not a simple formula, but in fact an induced state of stupor or deep trance, caused by the smoke of the kith. (Bland, 1920)

This view was shared by the occultist Aleister Crowley, who complained that his magical powers were affected by the absence of hashish and used the name Kyfi in this context.

Bowls of incense are offered to the Egyptian god.

Just recently, European news reported on a famous perfume manufacturer’s attempts to recreate the old Keefe: Ananova, Monday the 7th. October 2002 Scientists recreate the spirit of the pharaohs.

French scientists claim to have recreated the perfume of the pharaohs, which they say was used by the ancient Egyptians to improve their love life.

But like the ingredients in Kyphi perfume, it would be an aphrodisiac that helps people relax, including cannabis, which cannot be produced commercially.

Experts from L’Oréal and the C2RMF, the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, have succeeded in recreating the legendary Cithien fragrance.

French researcher Sandrine Vidaux, who spent years trying to recreate the perfume, finally succeeded with the help of the Greek historian Plutarch.

The Greek writer wrote that Cyprus has the power to put someone to sleep, help them dream sweet dreams, relax them, chase away the cares of the day and bring peace.

Among the many ingredients are pistachio, mint, cinnamon, frankincense, juniper and myrrh.

According to Vido, all previous attempts to use spirit traces found in Egyptian museums failed because there was not enough information available for analysis.

According to the expert, creating a flavor is a long process because there are many different recipes: Some samples contain no more than 10 ingredients, others as many as 50, she says.

According to written records, perfumes, which came in the form of cubes and, unlike modern perfumes, contained no alcohol, were worn by the ancient Egyptians in their hair and on their intimate parts to liven up their sex lives.

But Vido said: Keefe will never be sold because some of his ingredients are illegal substances. In any case, the scent is probably too strong for the modern world.

Plug plant

Another possible origin of cannabis use in Egypt can be deduced from the inscriptions referring to the Maat plant, which is depicted at the bottom of the following stele. It is maintained by the worshippers and seen by the waiting pickers holding the traditional Scythian cannabis harvesting tool, the scissors. Usually this stele is interpreted as a reference to the activities of the dead in the afterlife, but often these myths are realized by believers on a material level, so references to a sacred rite involving earthly sacrifices to the plant Maat cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Egyptian stele with catfish as specimen plant

The Egyptians associated the Ma’at plant with Osiris, as evidenced by the scenes and texts depicted here on the alabaster coffin of Sety I. In the middle book, we see the bad guys bound by norms guided by the Jackal…. In the book below we see figures of people tending the plant and one of them has a scythe, indicating that he was the reaper of the plant. In the paper above we see some men carrying a loaf of bread on their heads and others carrying a feather symbolizing the goddess of truth Maat. The first group of beings (second register) are the Blessed, whose kau (i.e. disposition) has been washed and who have been chosen by Osiris to dwell with him in the House of Holy Souls. The last group of beings (third register) are the workers in the cornfield of the Tuatha (i.e., the Other World), and the plants they tend and harvest are considered members of Osiris. The plant was Osiris, and Osiris was that plant, and the blessed one who ate the bread of eternity, made from the grain of that plant, ate Osiris. But Osiris was Maat, which is the truth, and when they ate bread, they ate the truth. By eating of his body, they became one with him and thus became eternal…. (Budge, 1925)

Curiously, Budge interpreted the image of the plant at the bottom of the Egyptian stele as a colossal ear of corn. It is probably another plant that was harvested with a Scythian tool, a scythe, which had divine properties and was associated with immortality and also with the rites of the dead. In the context of this illustration and the suggestion that the mate plant was baked into a sacramental bread, the body of Lord Osiris, it is important to note that in Persia cannabis was also known as sahdanag, the royal grain, and was baked in a number of confectioneries (Low, 1926).

The depiction of the mate plant and its association with the dead recalls the role of cannabis in Scythian funeral rites, as do the associated Eucharistic elements, which allude to the mythology of soma and chaom, the original Eucharistic sacrament. It should also be noted that the symbol of Maat was a green feather, and that this symbolism was also used to identify Soma. In the Van X.89.5, Soma Simiwat is mentioned. In context it should be translated as feathered, which literally means simi or sami…. The feathery leaves make themselves… look like a feather… Plumage in relation to catfish is mentioned in RV IV.27.4 (Richter-Ushanas, 1997). It can also be said that the shoots of cannabis leaves resemble a feather. As Homer Smith noted in Man and His Gods:

Those who lived by the laws of Maat took a sacramental drink, similar to the soma of the Hindus or its Persian counterpart haoma, which gave them a ritual purity…. the Egyptian scholars of the third millennium BC wrote….. Chr: My bowels are washed in Maat’s alcohol. (Smith, 1952)

It is interesting to note that the alchemist Zosimos, in the fourth century, would do this. Century n. Chr. write about the use of hemp, caramel and other plants as infusions in Egyptian beer and wine. However, it is not clear how long this practice has existed. However, archaeologists have recently discovered a 5,000-year-old brewery in Egypt, and perhaps analysis of the remains will shed light on the ingredients used at the time. More recently, researcher Brian Murarescu’s bestseller, The Key to Immortality, has sparked an interesting discussion about possible entheogenic beer in ancient times.

According to myth, the god Osiris taught man the art of brewing. It is interesting to note that there is an unidentified ancient entheogen named after this god Ozirit.


Osiritus was also known as Cynocephalus, and the Egyptian Gnostic texts of the 3rd century BCE. Century n. Chr. describe their insertion into the mouths of participants in a magical ritual.  Pliny mentions the same plant for divination. Pliny claims to have heard from the mouth of Apion the Grammarian, a notorious native of Egypt, that the dog-head plant, called ozirite in Egypt, is useful for divination and is a preservative against any abuse of magic, but that one who plucks it entirely from the ground will die on the spot. He also claims to have raised the spirits of the dead himself. The reference to death by pulling the entire plant out of the ground is reminiscent of the mythology of the mandrake, which is also psychoactive and was used in magical rituals.

Drug test for mummies

The recent discovery of a strand of silk in the hair of an Egyptian mummy, which combined with infrared and chemical analysis strongly suggests that Egypt was the repository of the ancient Silk Road, is an indication that this Silk Road originated in China. If this is correct, it means that Chinese silk entered the eastern Mediterranean around 1000 BC. Chr. reached, centuries before the traditional date (Allsen, 1997). Recent archaeological research has confirmed that cannabis, opium and other drugs were transported along the same trade routes.

Further research has shown that the ancient trade routes were not only older, but also much broader than traditionally thought. Tests on hair from Egyptian mummies from 1000 BC. Dating back to the first century BC, they not only showed positive results for heavy cannabis use, but also, causing controversy, evidence that was interpreted as indicating coca and tobacco use in the New World!

The research of the German scientist Svetla Balabanova in the early 1990s continues to baffle Egyptologists and challenge entire branches of science, archaeology, chemistry and botany, as well as modern methods of drug testing. In 1992, using the latest scientific techniques to learn about the lives of ancient Egyptians from mummified remains, researchers in Munich decided to look for signs of drug use in ancient times.  For this research, they turned to respected toxicologist Svelte Balabanova, who has developed innovative methods to detect drugs in hair and sweat.

Dr Svetla Balabanova

Balabanova used the supposedly reliable and standardized hair shaft test to ensure that the mummy’s tests were impeccable. Drugs and other substances that people ingest get into the protein of the hair, where they remain for months, even after they die. To make sure there are no contaminants, the hair samples are washed in alcohol and then the cleaning solution itself is tested. If the test solution is clear but the hair is positive, the drug must be in the hair shaft, which means the person has used the substance during his or her lifetime. Testing of hair shafts is considered positive evidence of pre- or post-mortem contamination. As Dr. John Henry, a British toxicologist, noted: The hair shaft test has been accepted. If you know that you took a hair sample from that person and it is known that the hair shaft contains the drug, then that is evidence that that person took the drug. It is therefore accepted by the legislator. It puts people in prison (Henry, 1996).

As a toxicologist and endocrinologist at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Ulm, Balabanova, who also worked closely with the German police, was more than familiar with autopsy techniques. Balabanova took samples of mummies, crushed them and dissolved them in a solution. As with the standard drug screening method, antibodies were used to determine the presence of drugs and other characteristics. In addition, the samples were also run through a GCMS instrument, which allows substances to be accurately identified by determining their molecular weight. The unexpected results of the two tests, which Balabanova had repeated several times in disbelief, led the German researcher into a fierce controversy for more than a decade.

Although Mr. Balabanova was not particularly surprised by the evidence of the presence of THC, the active chemical in Old World cannabis plants, the results, which pointed to New World plants such as coca and tobacco, caused him to react. The first positive results came as a shock to me, of course. I didn’t expect to find nicotine and cocaine, but I did. I was absolutely certain that it must have been a mistake (Balabanova, 1996). By repeating the tests and publishing the results, Balabanova became entangled in the maelstrom of controversy that has marked her career ever since.

This is the first study to investigate the presence of cocaine, hashish and nicotine in Egyptian mummies from around 1000 BC. Chr. is demonstrated. Chr. This means that these three organic substances in hair, soft tissue and bones can survive for about 3000 years under favourable conditions. However, at present it is not possible to determine whether the measured concentrations reflect the original amount of these drugs during life or immediately after death, nor what decomposition may have occurred over the past 3000 years. (Balabanova et al. 1992).

It is not surprising that the scientific community is critical. Exactly as described by Balabanova: I received a lot of almost threatening, abusive letters saying that it was nonsense, that I was fantasizing, that it was impossible because it was proven that these plants had not been found anywhere in the world before Christopher Columbus outside the Americas (Balabanova, 1996).

The presence of cannabinoids in the tissues of Egyptian mummies raises the possibility that cannabis was used by the early Egyptians for recreational/religious or medical purposes. Most of the controversy, however, is over reports of cocaine and nicotine levels in these Egyptian mummies before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Plants of the genera Erythroxylum (sole source of cocaine) and Nicotiana (sole source of nicotine) would have been found only in the New World before contact with Europeans in the 15th century. This is well after the dating (about 3000 BP) of the mummies analyzed by Balabanova et al. (1992). These results are so unusual that they also call into question cannabinoid discoveries. (Clark and Fleming, 1998)

Professor John Baines, an Egyptologist at Oxford University, represented the opinion of the vast majority of historians and commented on the speculation surrounding Balabanova’s discoveries. The idea that the Egyptians went to America is generally absurd. I do not know anyone professionally working as an Egyptologist, anthropologist, or archaeologist who seriously believes in any of these possibilities, nor do I know anyone who spends time researching these areas because they feel they are not relevant to the subjects (Bains, 1996).

While examining the mummified body of Ramses II, Dr. Lesko obtained samples of fragments from the mummy’s bandages. After analyzing the fragments, she discovered that they were plant parts. When she examined the sample under the microscope, she made a surprising discovery: the fragments were from a tobacco plant.
Traces of a supposed New World plant were found on an Old World mummy. This has led some to wonder how the body of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian leader could have come by fragments of a tobacco plant, while classic historical studies maintain that it is impossible that ancient Egypt could have established transoceanic trade relations with the peoples of the Americas at that time. In short, how did Ramses II get hold of tobacco? (Chen, 2017)

Although, as with the taboo on drugs in ancient times, a minority of researchers, such as Professor Alice Kehoe of Marquette University, seem more open to the possibility of a pre-Columbian transatlantic trade. I think there is good reason to believe that there were transatlantic and trans-Asian voyages before Christopher Columbus. When we try to talk about transoceanic contact,standard archaeologists get very…. cranky, and they want to change the subject. They seem to think that it is a contagious disease that they do not want to touch because it will bring disaster (Kehoe, 1996). It should be noted that prior to the discovery of a Norse colony on Newfoundland in 1965, theories of Viking travel to the Americas were also considered fantastic nonsense.

As the directors of the sensational TVF documentary The Mummies of Cocaine noted: If the cocaine found in the mummies cannot be explained by contamination with false mummies or with Egyptian plants containing cocaine, then there seems to be only one possibility…. The international drug trade, whose connections reach all the way to America.

Amid an unexpected controversy that threatened her professional reputation, Balabanova combed through historical records to see if other researchers had already recorded similar results. She loved the story of how in 1976 a scientific team tried to recover the badly damaged body of Ramses II. The bandages with which Ramses II had been wrapped had to be replaced, and the botanists were given pieces of cloth to analyze what they were made of to replace them. One of the researchers, Dr. Michelle Scott, found plant fragments in her paper and, after further analysis, small crystals and filaments that were unmistakable signs of a plant that clearly did not belong there.

I prepared the slides, I put them under the microscope, and what did I see? Tobacco. I told myself it was impossible, that I was dreaming. The Egyptians had no tobacco. It was brought from South America at the time of Christopher Columbus. I looked again, to get a better idea, and I thought, well, this is only the first analysis. I was working feverishly and forgot to eat lunch that day. But I kept getting the same result. (Scott, 1996).

In a storm of contradictions identical to those in which Ms Balabanova found herself, Dr Michelle Scott found little support for her conclusions. Most researchers considered the discovery of tobacco to be a clear case of contamination. Indeed, the statement by Professor Nasri Iskander, chief curator of the Cairo Museum, seems more than plausible: As far as I know, most archaeologists and scientists working in these fields smoked pipes. And I have been a pipe smoker myself for over 25 years. The piece of tobacco may then have fallen accidentally or casually, and to say it is good or bad requires a closer look (Iskander, 1996).

As the controversy over Balabanova’s discoveries continued, the first researchers who had asked her to study the mummies distanced themselves from her. As Dr. Alfred Grimm, curator of the Egyptian Museum in Munich, where the mummies came from, said: This has not really been proven, and I don’t think it is scientifically correct (Grimm, 1996). During their attempts to gain access to the mummies, the makers of The Mummies of Cocaine came to the conclusion that the museum wanted nothing more to do with the research, which they said was anything but serious.

As a result of this controversy, even researchers from other museums have been denied the opportunity to study the mummies further, such as Rosalie David, curator of Egyptology at the Manchester Museum. David, who was completely skeptical of Balabanova’s results and, due to the reluctance of his colleagues in Munich, could not obtain test material from the same test subject as Balabanova, decided to test several mummies and was himself stunned when the test material arrived : We have the results of the tests on tissue samples from the mummy, and two samples and one hair sample show traces of nicotine. I am really quite surprised (David, 1996).

More than welcome results Balabanova The results of the tests on the Manchester mummies have made me very happy after all these years of accusations of false results and tainted results. I was therefore pleased to learn that nicotine had been found in these mummies, and very, very pleased with this great confirmation of my work (Balabanwa, 1996).

Franz Parsche and Andreas Nerlich, in a 1994 article on the presence of drugs in various tissues of an Egyptian mummy, came to a conclusion based on a detailed examination of the tissues, bones and internal organs of the mummy, which was dated to about 950 BC. Chr. To biochemical conclusions that were almost identical to those of Balabanova. Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometric techniques, these researchers reported that significant amounts of various drugs were found in internal organs (lungs, liver, stomach, intestines), as well as in hair, bones, skin/muscle tissue, and tendons. These analyses revealed significant deposits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), nicotine (and its metabolite cotinine), and cocaine in the tissues of the mummy….. (Parsh and Nerlich, 1994).

The main finding was that the drugs (and some of their metabolites) could be clearly identified in the tissue samples analysed, suggesting that these substances were stable over an amazingly long period of time…. we found that a significant number of different drugs were present in different tissues. Although absolute values of drug concentrations may show significant inter-episodic differences, especially when tested with an immunoassay system, intra-episodic analysis, as in this study, shows good relative proportions. Thus, our analysis of the concentrations of various drugs in the various tissues of the mummy sheds light on the historical therapeutic data on cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, found in this paper, and argues for intravital nicotine use (with subsequent metabolism) rather than simple postmortem nicotine contamination. Moreover, these results agree well with previous observations of bone samples from other Egyptian mummies…. The observation of significant concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive drug such as hashish, in the lungs, with values higher than those in other internal organs, indicates a predominant intake of the substance by inhalation. This is consistent with medical papyrus records that mention smoking ceremonies, such as those involving hashish. Accumulation of THC in skin and muscle tissue may be related to contamination during the post-mortem embalming procedure. The analysis of this case revealed the previously unclear pathways of cocaine and nicotine use: Since the highest concentration of these substances is found in the stomach and intestines, this observation suggests that they are taken orally. (Parsh and Nerlich, 1994).

Parsh and Nerlich’s findings of high THC concentrations in Mumia’s lungs are consistent with the idea that the popular Egyptian perfume and incense, kifi, contained cannabis. Similarly, the accumulation of THC in skin and muscle tissue, which the authors believe was caused by contamination during embalming after death, is related to the idea that cannabis was used in Egyptian funeral rites, as discussed above.

As for the findings on nicotine, Parsche and Nerlich pointed out that modern analyses of the nicotine content of various vegetables have shown significant amounts of nicotine in certain plants other than tobacco, such as eggplants, tomatoes, and others.

In addition, a nicotine-containing plant (Nicotiana Africana) has recently been shown to occur in southern Africa and may have been available to the ancient Egyptians. The use of these substances as therapeutic agents may thus have occupied an important place in the repertoire of the physicians in ancient Egypt. (Parsh and Nerlich, 1994).

Sandy Knapp, of the Museum of Natural History’s herbarium, believes the test results only identify the family the tobacco came from, not the specific plant, and points to other members of the tobacco family that were prevalent in ancient Egypt, such as lullaby, mandrake and belladonna. I think they [Balabanova, Parsha, etc.] had evidence and they pushed the evidence a little further than the evidence really allowed them to do. Sometimes you can’t get beyond saying that something is there, then you hit a wall and can’t go any further or you start making things up (Knapp, 1996).

I think it’s very unlikely that tobacco would have an alternative story, because I think we would have heard it. This could be used in any literature, in temple sculptures, anywhere there would be evidence to show and say: Ah, it’s tobacco, but there’s nothing there. (Knapp, 1996).

Balabanova herself cherished the idea of a vanished tobacco variety, perhaps even an extinct plant species. The suggestion that the plant was harvested to extinction is more than plausible, and we have a modern example of the Egyptian Blue Lotus, which was prized by the ancient Egyptians for its narcotic properties and was harvested almost to extinction because of its popularity. As mentioned earlier, many medicinal plants have disappeared due to overuse. For example, the demand for sylphium, a plant valued for its medicinal and contraceptive properties, was so great in ancient Greece that it became extinct in the third or fourth century AD. (Peters, et al., 2005).

But even with the hint of an alternative source of nicotine, Balabanova was still surprised at the high concentrations of this substance found in Egyptian mummies, 35 times higher than those found in typical smokers today. Such levels would be potentially lethal if tobacco were consumed in such quantities over a lifetime.

Balabanova believes that these high doses of nicotine in Egyptian bodies can be explained if the nicotine-containing substance, which is not only consumed during his life, is also used in the mummification process. High nicotine content in tobacco can kill bacteria, and it is more than likely that some lost plants or even other members of the tobacco family, as suggested by Dr. Knapp and others, may have been part of the embalming secrets so carefully guarded by Egyptian priests for over 3,000 years.

Moreover, in the case of nicotine signatures, contamination by pipe-smoking archaeologists cannot be entirely excluded. The biomarker guide authors refer to tests in which a nicotine-free bronze femur was exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for six weeks and the bone was analyzed before and after washing. Surprisingly, the unwashed sample contained 11.6 ng of nicotine per gram of bone, while the washed sample contained 35.5 ng/g…. Researchers attribute this increase to tobacco smoke deposits that are flushed from the surface to the bone during washing, causing nicotine to accumulate (Peters, et al., 2005).

It would be nice if we could just end with an open question about the nicotine plant, but as Dr. Svetla Balobanova complained, she still thinks her conclusions are correct: Cocaine, of course, remains an open question. It’s a mystery – we have no idea how cocaine gets to Africa. On the other hand, we know that trade relations existed long before Christopher Columbus, and it is possible that the coca plant was already introduced into Egypt at that time (Balabanova, 1996). It is a situation that is difficult to accept even for this great student of ancient history.

A much more likely hypothesis of cocaine was noted by the authors of the biomarker handbook : Tropane alkaloids, which are structurally related to cocaine, are found in lilies, mandrake and nightshade and may have been converted to a cocaine-like compound during mummification (Peters, et al., 2005). As Heather Pringle notes in The Congressional Mummy:

…In the absence of any other convincing explanation, it now seems likely that Balobanova’s results were thwarted by circumstances few other hairdressers face. When Egyptian embalmers sprinkled handfuls of herbs, oils and vegetable resins on the flesh of the dead, they anointed the body and its curls with a complex chemical cocktail that mothers cannot yet describe, let alone fully understand. Conventional hair tests were never designed to work with such mixtures, nor to work over a huge time period, which is almost impossible to manage. Over the centuries and millennia, the compounds in these mixtures have been able to break down easily, leading to substances that are now easily tolerated by cocaine. (Pringle, 2001)

But unfortunately, to complicate matters further and call into question all previous findings, studies published elsewhere by Balabanova and Parsche have identified the same three substances – THC, cocaine and nicotine – in pre-Columbian mummies dating from around 115-1500 AD. (Balabanova, Parshe, Pirsig, 1992: 1993). In this case, one might have expected to find evidence of the existence of traditionally South American plants such as tobacco and coca, but THC, by pointing to a source world of traditionally ancient plants for cannabis, opens up a whole box of worms, since the evidence of coca and tobacco in ancient Egypt has just been examined. I have studied the subject thoroughly and I can say that there is no reliable archaeological or historical evidence to support the claim that cannabis was available in ancient Peru. These tests may have revealed traces of naturally occurring human endocannabinoids, which have been confused with plant cannabinoids as a result of the deodorization process.

With such contradictory conclusions drawn using supposedly advanced methods, it is hard to disagree with the opinion of Egyptologist John Baines. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of convictions these days for people possessing substances they didn’t actually have. Indeed, it would be surprising if a knowledgeable lawyer did not raise the same issues in court at some point.

Despite these mixed results, we can be sure from the Shemshet records in ancient papyrus that the Egyptians used cannabis for medicinal purposes as well as fiber. Reports on the plants kith, nepenthe and maat indicate that the Egyptians, like their ancient neighbours around the world, probably used cannabis along with other plants as a ritual intoxicant. It is hoped that, with ongoing archaeological and scientific research in this area, the ultimate role of cannabis and other entheogens in ancient Egypt will one day be more fully revealed in the sands of the desert.

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