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Morphometric approaches to Cannabis evolution and differentiation from archaeological sites: interpreting the archaeobotanical evidence from bronze age Haimenkou, Yunnan

Dal Martello, Rita; Min, Rui; Stevens, Chris J; Qin, Ling; Fuller, Dorian Q; (2023) Morphometric approaches to Cannabis evolution and differentiation from archaeological sites: interpreting the archaeobotanical evidence from bronze age Haimenkou, Yunnan. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 10.1007/s00334-023-00966-6. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Cannabis grains are frequently reported from archaeological sites in Asia, and hypothesized centers of origins are China and Central Asia. Chinese early cannabis remains are often interpreted as evidence of hemp fabric production, in line with early textual evidence describing ritualistic hemp cloth use and hemp cultivation as a grain crop. Modern measurements on cannabis varieties show distinct sizes between fibre or oil/fibre and psychoactive varieties, the former having larger seeds on average than the latter. This paper reviews the current macro-botanical evidence for cannabis across East, Central and South Asia and builds a comparative framework based on modern cannabis seed measurements to help identify cannabis use in the past, through the metric analysis of archaeologically preserved seeds. Over 800 grains of cannabis were retrieved from the 2008 excavation of Haimenkou, Yunnan, Southwest China, dating to between 1650 and 400 BC. These are compared with other known archaeological cannabis and interpreted through the metric framework. This offers a basis for exploration of the seed morphometrics potential to infer cannabis cultivation and diversification in uses. At Haimenkou, cannabis seeds size mostly plot in the range of overlapping psychoactive/fibre types; we therefore suggest that the cannabis assemblage from Haimenkou is indicative of a crop beginning to undergo evolution from its early domesticated form towards a diversified crop specialized for alternative uses, including larger oilseed/fibre adapted varieties.

Type: Article
Title: Morphometric approaches to Cannabis evolution and differentiation from archaeological sites: interpreting the archaeobotanical evidence from bronze age Haimenkou, Yunnan
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s00334-023-00966-6
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00334-023-00966-6
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Archaeobotany; Domestication; Hemp; Marijuana; Cannabis; China
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10183826
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