In a new study published in Science Advances, the oldest evidence of marijuana use has been discovered in a 2,500 year old cemetery in western China.

The team, led by archaeologists Yang Yimin and Ren Meng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, have found clear physical evidence that mourners burned cannabis for its intoxicating fumes on a remote mountain plateau in Central Asia roughly 2500 years ago.

“We are in the midst of a really exciting period,” says team member Nicole Boivin of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) in Jena, Germany.

The team found that cannabis burned 2500 years ago at the Jirzankal cemetery, 3000 meters high in the Pamir Mountains in far western China.

The study’s co-author Robert Spengler, said, “It is quite likely that people came across cannabis plants at higher elevations that were naturally producing higher THC levels.”

“The methods are convincing, and the data are unambiguous regarding early use of cannabis as a psychoactive substance,” said Tengwen Long, an environmental scientist at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

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