As part of getting spiritually high, ancient Israelites apparently burned cannabis on altars during rituals, the first proof of a mind-altering substance being used to attract worshippers, according to a study published on May 28 in the academic journal of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv.
Israeli researchers found a mixture of cannabis and dry dung in the residue on a 2,700-year-old altar at a temple in Tel Arad in the Negev Desert. The shrine was first unearthed about five decades ago.
The researchers included Eran Arie of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Volcani Institute’s Dvory Namdar and independent researcher Baruch Rosen.
“It seems feasible to suggest that the use of cannabis on the Arad altar had a deliberate psychoactive role. Cannabis odors are not appealing, and do not justify bringing the inflorescences from afar,” they wrote.
“The presence of cannabis at Arad testifies to the use of mind-altering substances as part of cultic rituals in Judah,” they wrote. “The plants detected in this study can serve as an extra-biblical source in identifying the incense used in cultic practices not only at Arad but also those elsewhere in Judah, including Jerusalem.”