Earliest evidence of tobacco used by hunter-gatherers in the US West 12,000 years ago, discovered by archaeologists

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Earliest evidence of tobacco used by hunter-gatherers in the US West 12,000 years ago, discovered by archaeologists
© Sarah K. Rice/Handout via REUTERS Archaeologists unearth an ancient hearth, containing four charred tobacco seeds, in northern Utah on October 11, 2021. Sarah K. Rice/Handout via REUTERS

  • Archaeologists in Utah discovered four charred seeds of a wild tobacco plant in northern Utah.
  • This is the earliest documented evidence of human tobacco use, dating back over 12,000 years.
  • The researchers believe that hunter-gatherers may have used tobacco during food preparation.

Archaeologists in Utah have unearthed a piece of evidence that suggests that the early inhabitants of North America were using tobacco around 12,300 years ago, Reuters reported.

The discovery of four charred tobacco plant seeds in an ancient hearth – a manmade fire pit -suggests that humans may have used the addictive plant some 9,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Up until now, according to the BBC, the earliest documented evidence of human tobacco use was a 3,300-year-old smoking pipe discovered in Alabama.

Researchers from the Far Western Anthropological Research Group and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center came across the evidence at the Wishbone site, an ancient camp in northern Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, near Salt Lake City, Reuters said.

Around the pit of the hearth, researchers found stone artifacts, bones from waterfowl and an unidentified mammal, and spear tips. It indicates that the hearth had been used for cooking game, according to online science, research, and technology news aggregator Phys.org.

The Utah researchers also discovered seeds, some of which were from wild tobacco plants.

Earliest evidence of tobacco used by hunter-gatherers in the US West 12,000 years ago, discovered by archaeologists
© Angela Armstrong-Ingram/Handout via REUTERS A magnified view of one of four charred seeds of the wild tobacco species Nicotiana Attenuata dating to 12,300 years ago that were found at the Wishbone site in Great Salt Lake Desert in northern Utah. Angela Armstrong-Ingram/Handout via REUTERS

While the exact use of tobacco at this site isn’t known, scientists have narrowed it down to a few possibilities. According to a paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, it may have been used by hunter-gatherers, who realized the intoxicant potential, as a fireside activity during food preparation.

The hunter-gatherers may have sucked or smoked wads of the plant, the BBC reported.

Tobacco was used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes, but it wasn’t popularized across the world until the 16th century.

There are now 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide, per the World Health Organization. It kills more than 8 million people each year, the WHO said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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