Humans began using tobacco at least 12,300 years ago, shows new evidence gathered by scientists from the interior of North America.
Four burnt seeds of a wild tobacco plant were found in the remains of a stove built by early settlers in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, according to a study published Monday in the journal. nature human behavior.
The species of tobacco found was of wild type Nicotiana attenuation, which still grows in this area today.
“This species was never domesticated, but is used to this day by indigenous peoples in the region,” the study’s lead author, archaeologist Daron Duke of the Far Western Anthropological Research Group in Nevada, told Reuters.
The earliest known use of tobacco prior to this discovery was 3,300 years ago, when nicotine residue was found in smoking pipes from Alabama.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers were the ones who discovered tobacco at the Utah site, and they would have either smoked it or sucked in plant fiber to stimulate themselves with nicotine.
“Data confirms that wild tobacco was available in the continental interior during the Pleistocene” [Epoch that began about 2.6 million years ago and ended around 11,700 years ago] and support the conclusion that its intoxicating properties were recognized by people sooner upon their arrival,” the study states.
This new finding makes it clear that studying tobacco as just a domestic crop requires a reappraisal.
“This discovery re-calibrates research on tobacco as a domesticated animal, some 8,000 to 10,000 years of human use and domestication before the great rise of agriculture in North America. en tabacum And en rustica with a host of food crops at some point,” explained the study.
This early use of tobacco holds significance as it suggests that the plant was not only used for agricultural purposes but may have played a role in shaping ancient civilizations.
“We speculate that tobacco may have joined the ecological knowledge base of people who settled the interior of the North American continent about 13,000-plus years ago,” said Duke.
The area where the fire was discovered is now a dry lake in northern Utah. At that time, the area was part of a vast marshland, which had a cold climate.
The site was named Wishbone by the researchers because of the duck’s wishbone found in the hearth.
Hunters at the site used artifacts, including sharp cutting tools and spear tips made of volcanic glass called obsidian, to hunt large mammals, Reuters said, citing research.
The blood on the tips of the spears matched that of mastodons, ancient creatures that lived in North and Central America until the days of the last ice age.
Campers were “highly mobile” people because they walked hundreds of kilometers a year, Dr Duke told tech news website Gizmodo in an email.
“The nearest natural habitat for the species of tobacco found at the Wishbone site is 13 km. [8 miles] distant, but for these people, they would have collected it somewhere/far away and kept it as part of their transportable kit,” he said.
According to Dr. Duke, the domestication of tobacco began thousands of years later in different parts of America.
“The early use of tobacco lends to the explanation that there is nothing inevitable about domestication,” the study said.
This implies that tobacco was a plant used for socio-economic purposes rather than any other.
“Although not a food plant, tobacco’s long legacy with humans, involved in both use and abuse, represents an approach from the socio-cultural side of a broader plant intensification process that adapts itself to local socioeconomic incentives and pressures. differently,” the study said.
According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use later became widespread and is now responsible for a public health crisis, with more than eight million annual tobacco-related deaths being reported worldwide.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /