Precontact CA Natives Used Tobacco
- Native American hunter-gatherers living more than a thousand years ago in what is now northwestern California ate salmon, acorns and other foods, and now we know they also smoked tobacco -- the earliest known usage in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new UC Davis study.
"The study demonstrates that tobacco smoking was part of the northwestern California culture very early ... shortly after the earliest documented Pacific Northwest Coast plank house villages," said the study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Testing organic residues extracted from pipes, researchers from the UCD Department of Anthropology and the Fiehn Metabolomics Laboratory of the UCD Genome Center confirmed tobacco was smoked, and likely grown in the region, by at least A.D. 860.
Perhaps more importantly, the researchers say that additional
studies may help them better understand the origins of nicotine addiction and the human management, geographic range extension and cultivation of tobacco. Indeed, as part of a second study, the authors have recently detected nicotine in ancient pipes from an 800-year-old site in the modern city of Pleasanton.
"Despite the economic importance of tobacco today, we know very little about its antiquity," said Shannon Tushingham, a UC Davis archaeology research associate and primary author of the study. "We believe Native American use of tobacco and other psychoactive plants is quite ancient. The methods we developed provide an important breakthrough which can be applied on even older pipes throughout the ancient Americas."
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