The Cannabis-Driven Neolithic Revolution Starts the First Civilization: Cooperation Over Conflict
Editor’s note: Welcome to Room 420, where your instructor is Mr. Ron Marczyk and your subjects are wellness, disease prevention, self actualization, and chillin’.
A Chinese Neolithic legend said that the gods gave humans one plant to fulfill all of their needs.
That plant was hemp.
The first contact between humans and the hemp plant are lost to history.
The following history is circumstantial; it is my attempt to reverse-engineer the missing prehistory of cannabis that hasn’t been told.
Humans migrated out of Africa approximately 75,000 years ago and survived as hunter-gatherers for approximately 55,000 years.
10,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age ended, humans traveled further into northern Asia.They had their first contact with the hemp plant.
Imagine the first smoky campfire, when someone threw a dry female plant into the pit: the first THC molecules hitting the first CB1 receptors ever — the whole small tribe experiencing a shift in consciousness centered on bliss and freedom.
Did contact with this plant change the course of human evolution by providing survival resources to small nomad bands, allowing them to produce more offspring?
Imagine a plant that protects and accelerates human evolution.
A radical shift in human behavior then began, called the Neolithic Revolution.
The Neolithic Revolution was a period of great transition, where humans went from a hunter-gatherer subsistence existence to primitive agriculture settlements.
Did the first human agrarian settlements originate mainly as small hemp/cannabis-based farms?
Humans now started to settle down in one place with one goal: find a niche with an optimal environment to grow plants for food. Surplus food equals greater chances of infant survival. In times of famine, females stop ovulating, because pregnancy is calorie expensive.
But what if, as a bonus, these early humans discover hemp’s other products: rope, cloth, medicine and religious sacrament, which further encouraged the growing this plant?Did the start of hemp farming kick start the Neolithic revolution? And, in time, the first pieces of civilization?
Civilization implies cooperation over hostile tribal conflicts. Did the shaman from this culture use cannabis as a sacred plant of peace and as something to worship?
The Neolithic revolution occurred in six different early cultures around the world in a 5000-year span, but the first place in the world where it occurred was northern China, very close to where wild hemp originated.
Humans’ first cultivation of hemp also started there. China is the oldest culture in the world, and has a rich historical connection to this plant.
Chinese archaeologists agree that hemp was one of the first known plant species to be purposefully cultivated. When you are always one meal away from starvation you don’t waste your energy on tasks that doesn’t fill your stomach. In addition, this plant was the only one cultivated dioeciously–that is, having separate male and female plants.
This is very interesting because it gives us an insight into what they were thinking about and how they were using it. There is only one use for the female plant.Hemp is a “first foundation” crop which had to give humans an evolutionary advantage, allowing them to produce more offspring by producing food, fiber, fuel and raw building material.
Over time, this plant yielded something new: a “medication for the soul”– a plant that could satisfy a special higher need, the ability to positively change human consciousness, which is the fourth drive in humans after food, shelter, and reproduction. Think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: cannabis consciousness is self-actualization. Because the hemp plant was able to meet all of the basic physiological needs of humans they were free to pursue higher spiritual needs.
Why was the match between humans and hemp so successful?
A leading theory of what drove the origins of human agriculture is called the Evolutionary/Intentionality Theory.This theory states that certain wild plants formed a symbiotic, co-evolutionary relationship with early humans.
It started with the mere protection of wild plants and progressed until their domestication is improved to help humans increase in numbers.
If man and plant both manipulate the other’s environment to produce genetic changes in their DNA that favor reproduction using the least amount of energy, it offers a huge evolutionary advantage to both species.
Plants want to make seeds and spread them. Humans are also similarly programmed by their DNA to reproduce and increase their numbers. By chance, if both species’ DNA benefit from this arrangement and can accomplish their primary task, a beneficial bond is formed between both species. How special is this bond? Cannabis has never taken a human life due to overdose; the big smile on your face is a freebie.
Once the seeds are produced, a natural algorithm will always find the most productive and successful route of dispersion, be it by animal (fur/feces), water, wind, OR by influencing human behavior (providing THC as trade). THC produces joy, and humans are only too happy to help the whole process along by sheltering the plant, providing it with nutrients, water and protection from predators and the elements.Don’t underestimate how important joy is to a robust human immune system and survival.
Discovering hemp was like early humans hitting the evolutionary lotto!
In addition, the plant provides humans with many basic survival products: high-quality, complete protein food with essential fatty acids, medicine, oil for cooking, baking, lamps, lubrication and skin and hair care products, rope which is naturally salt-resistant and extremely durable, clothing, and, best of all, a spiritual change of consciousness.
This is a win/win for both humans and plants.
The first recorded hemp-based culture in China: 5000 B.C.
The earliest known farming culture to use hemp/cannabis was the Yangshao culture, whose origins go back to 5,000 B.C. This culture existed until 3,000 B.C. For 2,000 years the economy of the Yangshao was cannabis-driven. It is not hard to imagine excess cannabis being traded with other tribes.Hemp probably played a founding role in the beginnings of human commerce.
If you look at this map, the Yangshao culture was established exactly where cannabis originated, just south of Siberia.
In addition, if you read my “Worth Repeating” post on the Yanghai Shaman, who lived to the west of this area, the culture from which he came was also cannabis-based.
Chinese archaeologists have firmly concluded that cannabis use in China extends deep into our prehistoric human past.In fact, hemp started recorded history.
Recorded history started approximately 10,000 years ago, when humans started to record information on hemp paper. Hemp replaced bulky clay tablets and expensive silk. Hemp paper became available to all people. It was very durable, and easy to make in large amounts. The first King James Bibles were printed on hemp paper.
Hemp paper literally started humans’ first “information age.” Hemp made the first books possible. Hemp the plant started civilization by recording what happened in the past for others to learn from.
The first books were made from hemp paper, the first books printed in China were medical journals, and what do you think was the first information written down? The suggested uses of medical cannabis.
Cannabis was human civilization’s first effective widespread medicine.
Imagine that! A medicine that humans used for over 12,000 years that never caused a fatality and was legal until 1937.
Cannabis-Based Spiritually: The First Human Religion?
The word shaman originated from Siberia in the general area where humans had their first contacts with cannabis.
The term is a loan from the Turkic word šamán, the term for such a practitioner, which also gained currency in the wider Turko-Mongol and Tungusic cultures in ancient Siberia.
Shamans were known as “priests” in the region where Ural-Altaic languages were spoken and where hemp was first discovered.
Cannabis may be responsible for the widespread awakening of human spiritual consciousness and in turn all of the world religions. Cannabis may have been mankind’s first spiritual sacrament in Asia and Europe.
Cannabis and the Roots of Taoism
Around this same time, and in the same location, the beginning of Taoism were forming.
Taoism’s roots originated from shaman culture.
Beginning around the 4th century, Taoist texts mentioned using cannabis in incense burners (ca. 570 CE).
The Taoist encyclopedia Wushang Biyao (“Supreme Secret Essentials”) states that cannabis was added into ritual incense burners, and suggested the ancient Taoists experimented systematically with “hallucinogenic smokes.”
And in Europe:
The Sacred Cannabis Temple in Gavrinis, France, built in 3500 B.C. is a megalithic monument notable for its abundance of Neolithic artwork.”Inside the mound, the significant degree of engravings on almost all the stones makes it immediately apparent that the builders were attempting to convey a special statement through this structure and it may or may not be relevant, but … Neolithic pottery artifacts were found in the chamber containing traces of cannabis.”
Hemp-based diet: The perfect blend of essential omega oils mixed with a large amount of complete protein. An excellent food for the under construction brains of babies to late teens.
Hemp nutrition builds healthy brain cells.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers would primarily forage for food. Hunting for large game required combat and high risk of injury or death. The path of least resistance was to gather low-hanging nuts and seeds from mature plants. One can imagine early Neolithic man harvesting hemp seeds from mature female plants. These seeds were ground between two flat rocks to a paste which could be dried or made into hot-water gruel.
Hemp seeds are a source of very high protein, and, in fact, have a complete amino acid profile and don’t need to be supplemented. Interesting fact: ground hemp seed is quite high in gamma linolenic acid, a very rare nutrient also found in breast milk. This could increase the chances of infants surviving the first years of life. A definite evolutionary advantage!
The hemp plant was mankind’s first crop. Due to all the products this plant produces, hemp had to be grown in large amounts. Its products may have started trading; the entire energies of early human settlement were based on hemp.
Hemp seeds are approximately 44 percent oil, which is heavily laced with cannabinols. By grinding these seeds into a paste, these would be consumed in high quantities.For the last 10,000 years, humans have been eating ground hemp seeds. Think of this as the world’s first peanut butter.
A traveler on horseback covering many miles a day could sustain himself with just one large bag of ground hemp seeds. They could be eaten on the go, without cooking. Hemp was the original survival food, before Power Bars and Clif Bars.
Approximately 44 percent of the weight of hemp seed is healthy edible oils, containing about 80 percent essential fatty acids. Its composition is: 55 percent linoleic acid, omega-6, 22 percent alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3, 1 – 4 percent gamma-linolenic acid, omega-6 and 0 – 2 percent stearidonic acid, omega-3.
These essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the preferred building blocks to construct, maintain, rebuild and repair the myelin sheath (the insulation) around nerves and neurons. The myelin sheath speeds electrical transmissions and maintains the signal strength. Bottom line: a well built brain.
Optimal human brain development in the first five years requires large amounts of complete protein and, essential fatty acids, The excellent nutrition from a ground hemp seed-based diet helped build stronger neo-cortex for reasoning and abstract thought.It is my hypothesis that as these oils were incorporated into the neuron cell wall and myelin sheath, cannabinoids, which are highly soluble in these hemp oils, traveled with and were incorporated into the very matrix of the brain architecture.
Cannabinoids are fat soluble, so they are stored in fat cells for up to 30 days, and the brain contains large amounts of fat stored as myelin. But this is a plus, because the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids are long-acting.
Essential fatty acids found in hemp seed help to form early human brain development.
Protein is the second major component (33 percent). This protein is unique in that it is easily digestible. Its amino acid profile is close to complete when compared to more common sources of proteins such as meat, milk, eggs and soy.
Hemp seed is an adequate source of dietary fiber, calcium and iron, and contains antioxidants and chlorophyll. Whole hemp seeds are also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Hemp seed is usually very safe for those unable to tolerate nuts, gluten, lactose, and sugar. In fact, there are no known allergies to hemp foods. Hemp seed contains no gluten and therefore would not trigger symptoms of celiac disease.The first rope for humans: 10,000 B.C.
Rope and cordage may not seem like a big deal to us in the 21st century, but rope, when living in the wilderness 10,000 years ago, was an absolute necessity.
Spun into different thicknesses, hemp was used for sewing thread, which stitched together clothing when humans made the shift from animal skins.
It could be used to suture wounds and tie off arterial bleeding.
The first bow strings were finely woven and waxed hemp cord.
“Historically, bow strings were frequently made from animal byproducts such as sinew, intestine, or hair. Plant fibers such as linen or hemp were also common and usually had a superior ratio of strength to mass. When treated with beeswax they are very resistant to moisture.”Rope was used for lashing timbers together in hut construction. Hemp rope fibers were also mixed with earth to make rammed earth blocks, which is what was used to construct the Great Wall of China. Hemp fibers added to rammed earth increase tensile strength and reduce shrinkage and cracking. How strong? The Great Wall is still standing after 4,000 years.
Rope was also used to make the first harnesses for work animals, horse bridles and saddles.
Sailing ships would not have been possible without hemp. The salt water-resistant fibers made the sails and all of the ship’s riggings. Dipped in tar, rope was hammered into the hull construction as chinking, to make it waterproof.
Neolithic humans did more fishing than hunting, because it didn’t require combat. Because sea levels were lower, there was more coastline. The first hemp nets were probably invented at this time.
Where does hemp rope come from?The fiber is the most valuable part of the hemp plant. It is commonly called bast, which refers to the fibers that grow on the outside of the woody interior of the plant’s stalk, and under the outermost part (the bark). Bast fibers give the plants strength.
Hemp fibers can be between approximately 0.91 m (3 ft) and 4.6 m (15 ft) long, running the length of the plant. Depending on the processing used to remove the fiber from the stem, the hemp may naturally be creamy white, brown, gray, black or green.
Dried, these long strands can be tightly woven into different thicknesses. Hemp grows extremely fast, and the fibers are easy to harvest.
Expression of oil from the seed of industrial hemp plants leaves behind a protein-rich, oil-poor seed cake, also referred to as ‘seed meal.’ This seed meal has proven to be an excellent source of nutrition for animals.
Animal bedding products made from the hurd (inner woody core of the stem) of industrial hemp plants can absorb up to five times their weight in moisture, do not produce dust, and are easily composted.
Fiber for durable cloth
The first clothing after animal skins was made from woven hemp fiber.
Tibetans domesticated Cannabis sativa and used it for making string and cloth. This was likely invented by females, since the development is virtually simultaneous with the invention of heddles (the parallel cords used to guide warp threads in a loom). (source)Humans would have never sailed the seas if it weren’t for hemp sails. Hemp for primitive boats gave humans the ability to explore the world.
Hemp canvas started art.
Even corpses were often shrouded in hemp cloth before interment.
Humans would have never survived without this plant. If there were ever a plant that deserved to be worshipped, it is cannabis.
Just like ancient humans, I want a survival crop in my backyard that I can us as building supply, as food, bio-diesel, medicine, and as a spiritual sacrament.
Marijuana= life! We should all consider what will be our back-up plan if the grid melts down.
Would a hemp garden save your life?
The U.S. Government says YES! Please view this important video put out by the federal government:
Editor’s note: Ron Marczyk is a retired high school health eduation teacher who taught Wellness and Disease Prevention, Drug and Sex Ed, and AIDS education to teens aged 13-17.
He also taught a high school International Baccalaureate psychology course. He taught in a New York City public school as a Drug Prevention Specialist.
He is a Registered Nurse with six years of ER/Critical Care experience in NYC hospitals, earned an M.S. in cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology, and worked as a New York City police officer for two years.
Currently he is focused on how evolutionary psychology explains human behavior.