Tel Aviv, Sep 21 (SocialNews.XYZ) Israeli researchers have found the world's earliest known evidence of the use of opium, remains of which were discovered in pottery vessels dating back to about 3,400 years ago.
The announcement was made by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University (TAU) in a joint statement on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.
In a study, conducted by the IAA, TAU and the Weizmann Institute of Science and published in the journal Archaeometry, the team revealed that the Canaanites -- a Semitic-speaking civilization and region in the Ancient Near East during the late 2nd millennium BC -- used the hallucinogenic drug in burial rituals as an offering for the dead.
The ceramic vessels, some of which were made in Cyprus, were discovered back in 2012 in Canaanite graves among the remains of the ancient city of Tel Yehud, in today's city of Yehud-Monosson.
The vessels were put in the graves as offerings with the belief that they would be used by the dead in the afterlife, the statement said.
Through an organic residue analysis, the researchers found opium residues in eight vessels,
The findings confirm an assumption that opium and its trade played a role in the Near East cultures, the statement added.
"It may be that during burial ceremonies, participants attempted to raise the spirits of their dead relatives in order to express a request, and would enter an ecstatic state by using opium," said IAA researcher Ron Be'eri.
"Alternatively, it is possible that the opium, which was placed next to the body, was intended to help the person's spirit rise from the grave in preparation for the meeting with their relatives in the next life," he added.
"The opium was brought from Turkey, through Cyprus, indicating the importance that was attributed to the drug," said TAU researcher Vanessa Linares.