A recent revolutionary study discovered the historic use of cannabis in the 17th century, as forensic toxicological analyses took place on bone samples collected from human remains in Milano.
The study, conducted by researchers looking into the usage of plants for medicinal and recreational purposes at this time, provides new insight into the customs of the people who lived in the Ca’ Granda, one of the most important hospitals in Europe at the time.
Unveiling ancient habits
The paper describes the results of toxicological tests conducted on femoral bone samples taken from those interred in the Ca’ Granda crypt. It was published in Journal of Archaeological Science. With labels from F1 to F9, nine femoral bone samples coming from various Stratigraphic Units in Chamber O of the crypt took part in the research. These people were cross-sectioned from Milano’s poor social class, and their 17th-century existence was verified by radiocarbon dating.
To examine the bones, researchers used modern instruments. Two of the nine samples (22% of the biological samples) contained two cannabinoids: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). This finding represents the first tangible evidence of cannabis use in Italy and throughout Europe during the Modern Age.
The hospital pharmacopeia mystery
Surprisingly, during that time, cannabis was not a popular medical therapy in the extensive hospital pharmacopoeia from the Ca’ Granda archives. It also means that, in contrast to what researchers expected, the plant was not useful in the hospital for therapeutic purposes. Because cannabis did not occur in the pharmacopoeia, researchers concluded that the participants may have used cannabis recreationally.
Understanding the context
The study explores the possible causes of cannabis exposure while diving into a larger historical background. While recreational use makes sense, it is not possible to rule out other potential exposure sources. Researchers exclude possibility of self-medication, medical professionals administering treatment outside of Ca’ Granda, occupational exposure, or unintentional exposure. Additionally, they carried out the anthropological and paleopathological studies. They revealed the names of seven males and two females as well as a range of medical issues.
This work creates new opportunities for research in the area of toxicology applied to historical and archaeological human remains. This are is unexplored and could help us better understand how ancient societies used drugs. The results of this study not only advance our knowledge of cannabis use in the past. It also highlight the need of using a multidisciplinary approach when studying the way of life of historical populations.
In summary, this study clarifies myths regarding the historical use of plants for therapeutic purposes. However it is also offering an insight into the cannabis use patterns of Milanese citizens in the 17th century. The identification of cannabis in bone samples inspires more research into the various ways that ancient societies used plants for recreational and medical purposes.