Cannabis Was First Domesticated In The Stone Age, Study Suggests

by : Emily Brown on : 17 Jul 2021 15:36
Cannabis Was First Domesticated In The Stone Age, Study SuggestsPA Images

A newly published study suggests cannabis originated in China and was first domesticated in the Stone Age, paving the way for the numerous different varieties available today. 

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, saw researchers analyse the genomes of 110 different cannabis varieties from around the world, encompassing the entire spectrum of modern strains and landraces as well as feral varieties growing in the wild.


While previous studies have suggested cannabis originated in Asia, the fact that the wild progenitor of cannabis is now extinct means it cannot be studied directly, in turn making it difficult to pinpoint exact origins.

Dried hemp plants (PA Images)PA

In their study, cited by IFL Science, the researchers assessed the genetic relationships between the different varieties and found that every modern hemp and drug-type cannabis strain is linked to the same ‘ancestral gene pool’, which appears to stem from Chinese landraces and feral plants.

The authors explained the results are ‘consistent with a single domestication origin of [cannabis] in East Asia’; a finding which contradicts a widely accepted view that ‘associates cannabis with a Central Asian center of crop domestication.’

Cannabis plant (PA Images)PA

As well as studying where the substance originated, the scientists looked into when it was domesticated, with genomic dating revealing the first domesticated ancestors of modern cannabis plants came from the wild progenitor approximately 12,000 years ago, during the Stone Age.

This, the authors explained, indicates ‘the species had already been domesticated by early Neolithic times.’

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Science, Cannabis, China, no-article-matching, Weed


Science Advances
  1. Science Advances

    Large-scale whole-genome resequencing unravels the domestication history of Cannabis sativa