The Earliest Evidence of the Use of Opium, Discovered in a Canaanite Tomb

Sept. 22 2022

At an archaeological site near the Israeli town of Yehud, researchers found residue of opium in jugs from the 14th-century BCE. They conjecture that the opium itself came from poppies grown in what is now Turkey, while the practice of using opium was introduced to the Canaanites by the Egyptians. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

Over the past decade of research surrounding the chronology of the dispersion of opium, archaeobotanical studies have identified poppy—the plant from which opium is harvested—at archaeological sites dating to the Neolithic period. Additionally, there are ancient texts talking about opium use as well as ample religious iconography. But until now archaeologists hadn’t found the physical evidence to back it up.

The opium residue was found in high-quality ceramic base-ring juglets that were imported from Cyprus and others used in a burial assemblage discovered at Tel Yehud, in a salvage excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority dig director Eriola Jakoel from 2012 to 2017.

The residue detected by the California-native Vanessa Linares records is, to date, the oldest proof of psychoactive drug use in the archaeological record, predating the much-publicized Tel Arad cannabis find by about 600 years.

Perhaps, Linares said, the buried individual would need the opium to endure his transition to the afterlife, or maybe it was used for ritualistic purposes by the priests themselves. Or it could have been used by the mourners to ease their emotional pain over the loss of the deceased.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, Canaanites, Drugs

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion