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Research Verifies Use of Hashish, Cocaine, Nicotine in Prehistoric Cultures


March 1993

A group of German anthropologists, using an innovative means of analyzing hair and bone samples from mummies and other ancient remains, have verified the use of hashish, cocaine, and nicotine in prehistoric society (Franz Parsche, Svetlana Balabanova, and Wolfgang Pirsig, "Drugs in Ancient Populations," The Lancet, Vol. 341, 2/20/93, p. 503).

The researchers from the Institute for Anthropology and Human Genetics in Munich analyzed hair, skin, muscle, brain, teeth, and bones from natural and artificial mummies and earth-buried skeletal remains. They examined 72 Peruvian mummies from 200 - 1500 AD, 11 Egyptian mummies from 1070 BC - 395 AD, skeletal tissue from two Sudanese from 5000 - 4000 BC and 400 - 1400 AD, and skeletal tissue from 10 south Germans from around 2500 BC, looking for cocaine, hashish, and nicotine and their metabolites.

Evidence of all three drugs was found in the Peruvian and Egyptian remains, while only nicotine was found in the south German and Sudanese remains. The researchers note that their analytical method, which permits analysis from both mummified and non-mummified remains, will "allow reconstruction of socio-anthropological aspects of drug use (e.g., to motivate the workforce), socio-political aspects (e.g., use of drugs in selected classes, political heads, priests), and use of drugs for analgesia."