Cannabis' earliest roots can be traced back to 12,000 years ago and may have its roots from northwestern China and not South Asia as it is commonly believed, a new study revealed on Friday. Researchers found that the Cannabis sativa species, widely used as a recreational drug, emerged from the northwestern China region in Neolithic times (10,000-3,000 BC).
According to the journal Science Advances, one of the first plants that were domesticated by humans was Cannabis. According to the study it was found that it was used in textiles, food, and oilseed as hemp. But had limited access due to legal restrictions.
A group of researchers in Switzerland and China complied with 110 whole genomes, covering a spectrum of different wild-growing feral plants. The plants were domesticated varieties and modern hybrids of hemp and marijuana with high levels of THC.
Their genomic analysis separated the samples into four major groups, including basal cannabis, which is found in China and the United States. The analysis suggested that early domesticated ancestors of hemp and marijuana, that is 12,000 years ago.
"Our genome-wide analyses corroborate the existing archaeobotanical, archaeological, and historical record, and provide a detailed picture of the domestication of Cannabis and its consequences on the genetic makeup of the species," said the study.
Modern Chinese landraces and feral cannabis plants are now the closest descendants of the ancestors of hemp and marijuana, the study said. Meanwhile, the pure wild ancestors of Cannabis sativa have likely gone extinct.
After its domestication, the plant slowly spread its roots across Europe and the Middle East in the Bronze Age, archaeological evidence showed, CNN reported.
The first record of Cannabis sativa appeared in India about 3,000 years ago. After this, it travelled to Africa in the 13th century and then spread to Latin America in the 16th century and then arrived in North America at the beginning of the 20th century.
A 2019 report had shown that a 2,500-year-old tomb in western China revealed the earliest clear evidence of humans using cannabis for its psychoactive properties.