Conventional wisdom states Cannabis sativa originated in Asia and its dispersal to Europe depended upon human transport. Various Neolithic or Bronze age groups have been named as pioneer cultivators. These theses were tested by examining fossil pollen studies (FPSs), obtained from the European Pollen Database. Many FPSs report Cannabis or Humulus (C/H) with collective names (e.g. Cannabis/Humulus or Cannabaceae). To dissect these aggregate data, we used ecological proxies to differentiate C/H pollen, as follows: unknown C/H pollen that appeared in a pollen assemblage suggestive of steppe (Poaceae, Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae) we interpreted as wild-type Cannabis. C/H pollen in a mesophytic forest assemblage (Alnus, Salix, Populus) we interpreted as Humulus. C/H pollen curves that upsurged and appeared de novo alongside crop pollen grains we interpreted as cultivated hemp. FPSs were mapped and compared to the territories of archaeological cultures. We analysed 479 FPSs from the Holocene/Late Glacial, plus 36 FPSs from older strata. The results showed C/H pollen consistent with wild-type C. sativa in steppe and dry tundra landscapes throughout Europe during the early Holocene, Late Glacial, and previous glaciations. During the warm and wet Holocene Climactic Optimum, forests replaced steppe, and Humulus dominated. Cannabis retreated to steppe refugia. C/H pollen consistent with cultivated hemp first appeared in the Pontic-Caspian steppe refugium. GIS mapping linked cultivation with the Copper age Varna/Gumelniţa culture, and the Bronze age Yamnaya and Terramara cultures. An Iron age steppe culture, the Scythians, likely introduced hemp cultivation to Celtic and Proto-Slavic cultures.
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany – Springer Journals
Published: May 5, 2018
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