Cannabis was used for religious rites at a biblical site in Israel, study finds

Shown here is a view of the Canaanite city ruins in the lower area of the Tel Arad archaeological site, Israel.

(CNN)If there were any more fun facts to learn about cannabis, its ritualistic use at a biblical site in Israel can now be added to the list.

In 1963, two limestone altars were found at the entrance to the "Holy of Holies" of a Judahite shrine at Beersheba Valley, in Israel's Tel Arad, an archaeological mound located west of the Dead Sea and surrounded by mountain ridges known as the Arad Plain.
The site is divided into a lower city and an upper hill. Inside the site, there is a shrine devoted to Yahweh, the Hebrew name of God used in the Bible.
Analysis of the materials on two altars, now housed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, found they contained cannabis and frankincense, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Tel Aviv.
This is the frontal view of the cella of the shrine at Arad, as rebuilt in the Israel Museum from original archaeological finds.
This is the first time that physical evidence of cannabis has been identified in the Ancient Near East, according to the study authors.
"We know from all around the Ancient Near East and around the world that many cultures used hallucinogenic materials and ingredients in order to get into some kind of religious ecstasy," said lead author Eran Arie, curator of Iron Age and Persian Periods archaeology in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
"We never thought about Judah taking part in these cultic practices. The fact that we found cannabis in an official cult place of Judah says something new about the cult of Judah," Arie said. The study's finding regarding frankincense also provided further insight into the ingredients used in Jerusalem in