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

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.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, Canaanites, Drugs


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7