holandia coffeeshop znalezisko

Have they been doing this for 2,000 years? An unusual find

Do you know the famous “Coffeeshops” from the Netherlands? It turns out that stimulants have been known in this country for two thousand years. Very serious scientific evidence has just been found for this.

The nearly 2,000-year-old cache is the first evidence of the deliberate use of a powerful psychedelic plant in Western Europe during the Roman era. And although the find was discovered in 2011, it is only now that the surprise hidden inside it has been discovered. Thirteen years ago, archaeologists discovered an ancient pit filled with 86,000 animal bones in a Roman-era farm near the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The task of Martijn van Haasteren, an archaeozoologist at the country's Cultural Heritage Agency, was to sort them.

An unusual find

So there was a lot of tedious work. So what a surprise it must have been when, after cleaning one of the bones from the mud, hundreds of black spots the size of poppy seeds fell out of it. The spots turned out to be seeds of henbane, a highly poisonous member of the nightshade family, which, however, can also be medicinal or hallucinogenic – depending on the dose. The cleaned bone, which was hollowed out from the inside and sealed with a tar stopper, turned out to be an ancient cache in which seeds had been stored for about 1,900 years.

Scientists determined that the bone was deposited in the pit between 70 and 100 AD – at a time when the Netherlands formed the northern border of the Roman Empire. Parts of the container were smooth, suggesting frequent use. This “very unique” discovery is the first definitive evidence that the indigenous inhabitants of a province so remote from Rome knew the powerful properties of black henbane. By the time the original owner stuffed the container full of seeds, its properties were already well known in Rome. The writings of Pliny the Elder and others attest to the medicinal use of henbane seeds and leaves, but warn that overindulgence results in mind-altering effects.

This plant was mainly used in Roman times as a painkilling ointment, although some sources also mention burning its seeds or adding its leaves to wine. The question is, however, whether Roman knowledge about the special properties of the black henbane reached the more distant corners of the empire? Or could this knowledge have been developed independently by local communities? Experts can only guess what purposes the seeds were used for.

This is not the first discovery of the black henbane in the Netherlands. However, it has never been seen in such large numbers. So far, these were rather single pieces. Astrid Van Oyen, an archaeologist at Radboud University in Nijmegen who was not involved in the study, adds that “whoever collected all these seeds in this makeshift container did it deliberately and skillfully – they knew what they were doing.”

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