Researchers claim to have discovered that cannabis was first cultivated by humans around 12,000 years ago in China, according to a Lausanne study based on the analysis of genomes from plants from around the world.
The study,, explains that the genomic history of the domestication of cannabis has not been sufficiently studied compared to other cultivated species, in large part because of legal restrictions.
The study was led by Luca Fumagalli from the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Romand University Center for Forensic Medicine, and involved scientists from Great Britain, China, India , Pakistan, Qatar and Switzerland.
Researchers have compiled 110 entire genomes spanning the entire spectrum of cannabis, from wild plants, to historic cultivars (a variety of a plant species obtained artificially for cultivation), to modern hybrids used for hemp and drugs.
One of the first cultivated plants
The study claims to have determined “the time and origin of domestication, post-domestication divergence patterns and current genetic diversity.” The plant is said to be one of the first to be cultivated, along with wheat and barley.
“Our genomic dating suggests that the earliest domesticated ancestors of the hemp and drug types diverged from basal cannabis” about 12,000 years ago, “indicating that the species had already been domesticated by the early Neolithic period.” according to this study.
“Contrary to a widely accepted opinion, which associates cannabis with a center of crop domestication in Central Asia, our results are consistent with a single origin of domestication of cannabis sativa in East Asia, consistent with early archaeological evidence. “, also say the authors.
Current varieties 4000 years old
Cannabis has been used for millennia for textiles, as well as for its medicinal and psychotropic properties.
The evolution of the cannabis genome suggests that the plant has been cultivated for multiple purposes for several millennia, according to the same study.
The current varieties, very specialized, are said to come from selective cultures initiated “only” about 4000 years ago, optimized for the production of fibers (hemp) or cannabinoids (marijuana). The ancestral wild species has probably disappeared.