Evidence suggests humans were burning tobacco 12,000 years ago

Shane McGlaun - Oct 12, 2021, 7:19am CDT
Evidence suggests humans were burning tobacco 12,000 years ago

Researchers have discovered evidence that ancient North American people were using tobacco as far as 12,000 to 12,500 years ago. The first evidence of tobacco use is much older than evidence suggesting tobacco was burned in pipes dating to 9000 years ago. New evidence is the oldest direct evidence of tobacco use discovered anywhere in the world.

The evidence for tobacco use was discovered during excavations in Utah at a site called Wishbone. During excavations at the site, scientists discovered four wild tobacco plant seeds in a small fireplace that were charred. The seeds were radiocarbon dated and are believed to have come from foothills of mountains about 13 kilometers from the Wishbone site.

Researchers point out that the excavation site was a marshland when the ancient people lived there. Other discoveries in and around the ancient fireplace included bones from various animals, including ducks and waterfowl. The team also discovered an intact stone point and another stone point that was broken.

Seeds from other edible wetland plants were also discovered in the fireplace. Exactly how these ancient hunter-gatherers used the tobacco seeds is a mystery. Researchers believe wads of tobacco leaves, stems, and other fibers may have been twisted into balls and chewed or sucked with seeds discarded.

However, the researchers admit that smoking of tobacco can’t be ruled out. It appears at the Wishbone site that hunter-gatherers were utilizing wild tobacco. The oldest evidence of domesticated tobacco was discovered in South America and dates to 8000 years ago. The evidence suggests various ancient populations were able to cultivate tobacco at different times alongside food crops.


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