You probably wouldn't want to smoke the stuff, but archaeologists have discovered the most well-preserved cannabis plants one could hope for in an ancient Chinese burial. The first discovery of its kind comes from the grave of a man aged about 35—possibly a shaman, reports Discover—buried 2,400 to 2,800 years ago in Turpan, China, then a desert oasis along the Silk Road. Said to have Caucasian features, the body was found on a wooden bed with a reed pillow and an "extraordinary cache" of 13 cannabis plants placed diagonally across the chest, each almost 3 feet long, reports National Geographic. Archaeologists have found cannabis leaves and seeds in other ancient burials, but never whole plants.
This is also the first time archaeologists have seen cannabis used as a burial shroud, study author Hongen Jiang explains in Economic Botany. A few flowering heads on the plants—all others had been cut off—held unripe fruit, suggesting the man was buried in late summer. Researchers believe the cannabis was also fresh, meaning it was grown locally. Why exactly was the Subeixi culture of Turpan growing cannabis? Researchers say they could have made hemp cloth or used the seeds for food. More likely, though, they extracted resin containing cannabinoids like THC from the plant's tiny "hairs" to use in medicine or in ritual, "possibly to facilitate communication between the human and spirit worlds," per NPR. (These burials aimed to ward off demons.)