People have apparently been using tobacco for at least a good amount 10. 000 years and thus much longer than previously known. This is what researchers conclude from excavations in the Great Salt Flats in the northwest of the US state of Utah. There they discovered in a 12. 300 year old fireplace next to tools and animal bones four Charred tobacco seeds.
The earliest record of the use of tobacco plants in North America was 3000 years old. The find proves that the early inhabitants of the continent recognized and used the properties of the plant, writes Daron Duke’s team from the Far Western Anthropological Research Group in the journal “Nature Human Behavior”.
Firewood, tools, bones and tobacco scraps
Got from all psychoactive substances Tobacco had particularly great social and economic importance. The group also points to its wide global distribution. The ritual, medicinal and social uses of the plant are deeply rooted in the North American natives. Especially with the inhabitants of the Great Basin, to which the site is one, it is closely connected with shamanic practices.
How far back this tradition goes has been unclear so far. The oldest evidence of tobacco use to date was a 3300 year old pipe with tobacco residue that was discovered in the southeastern United States. In that region, pipes up to 5000 years old were found, but without traces of the plant. According to the researchers, tobacco use in South America also dates back at least 3000 years.
In contrast, the current find comes from a time when when the continent was not long settled. According to what is currently known, the first people entered America about 16. 000 Years across the Bering Strait. The tobacco seeds now discovered come from a place where about 12. 300 years ago a group of hunters and gatherers camped. At that time there was no desert, but a large swamp area.
In addition to residues from willow wood used as firewood, the researchers found remains of tools and more than 2000 Traces of animal bones, mainly from water birds. The tobacco seeds probably belong to the species Nicotiana attenuata , which tolerates cold and drought well. Since the plant does not grow in wetlands, the researchers assume that people carried leaves or flowers with them. The seeds, which themselves do not contain nicotine, are therefore only residues of the plant parts actually used.
Chewed or smoked stimulants
It is unclear exactly how people used tobacco at that time. At least later, tobacco smoking was widespread in North America, but parts of the plant may also have been chewed, the team writes. “The data confirm that wild tobacco was present in the interior of the continent during the Pleistocene and support the conclusion that the people arriving soon recognized its intoxicating properties.” ) to 10. 000 years of wild tobacco. Only then did some groups start growing the plants themselves.