New evidence suggests the Vikings may have cultivated and smoked cannabis

Though it may sound like a ridiculous question at first blush, a recent discovery of cannabis pollen near a Viking settlement in Newfoundland is leading researchers to wonder: Were the Vikings potheads?

According to Live Science:

“In August 2018, an archaeological team excavated a peat bog located nearly 100 feet (30 meters) east of the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows. They found a layer of ‘ecofacts’ — environmental remains that may have been brought to the site by humans — that were radiocarbon dated to the 12th or 13th century.

“These ecofacts include remains of two beetles not native to Newfoundland — Simplocaria metallica, from Greenland, and Acidota quadrata, from the Arctic. The layer also held pollen from Juglans (walnuts) and from Humulus (cannabis), two species that don’t naturally grow at L’Anse aux Meadows; rather, the Vikings could have picked up all of these plant and animal species when they sailed south.”

Authentic Viking recreation, Newfoundland, Canada (Via Wikimedia Commons)

However, the real reason for cultivating pot may have been to use the hemp fiber for various practical purposes:

“The finding of cannabis pollen raises the question of whether the Vikings used cannabis for making clothes or for medicinal-recreational purposes while they explored North America. Paul Ledger, the lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial University of Newfoundland urged caution on the interpretation of the findings, noting that pollen can easily be carried by the wind.”

Not all Viking experts are buying the idea pot was used to get high and urge caution.

Birgitta Wallace, a senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada who has done extensive research on the Vikings in North America, remarked:

“I think it is highly unlikely that the Norse [another word for Vikings] would have returned in the 12th and 13th centuries, as there are no structures on the site from that period that could be Norse. We do know that there were indigenous people, ancestors of the Beothuk, on the site at that time.”

Oseberg Ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Olso. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Patricia Sutherland, a visiting scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, echoed Wallace, commenting:

“It seems premature to suggest such a scenario on the basis of the ‘ecofacts’ listed in the paper,” Sutherland said. It’s possible that some of the beetles and plant pollen found in the layer were brought to L’Anse aux Meadows by the Vikings around A.D. 1000, and they continued to flourish after the Vikings left.”

Even if Vikings did indeed use cannabis for recreational purposes, would that really be such a terrible development? The plant has been used for centuries by nearly every civilization and has incredible medicinal potential even now for ailments such as depression, anxiety, glaucoma, and to mitigate the loss of appetite from chemotherapy. If the Vikings did like to get high, more power to them.

Related: Researchers discover that humans have been smoking marijuana since the first millennium BC

Here’s a video outlining the 5 ways Vikings probably did use cannabis:

Featured Image Via MaxPixel

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