New Research Indicates Hemp Processing May Have Taken Place Throughout Human Society

New research being published in the June issue of the journal Geology, and published online early, has found evidence of hemp retting from early society, indicating that humans produced hemp products likely throughout society’s existence.

An example of hemp retting is soaking stalks in water to separate the fiber from the wood tissue.

An example of hemp retting is soaking stalks in water to separate the fiber from the wood tissue.

The study’s abstract starts, “Hemp (Cannabis sp.) has been a fundamental plant for the development of human societies. Its fibers have long been used for textiles and rope making, which requires prior stem retting.” Retting is the process of employing moisture on plants in order to loosen the fiber from the wood tissue.

The abstract continues:

“The history of human activities related to hemp (its domestication, spread, and processing) is frequently reconstructed from seeds and pollen detected in archaeological sites or in sedimentary archives, but this method does not always make it possible to ascertain whether retting took place. Hemp is also known to contain phytocannabinoids, a type of chemicals that is specific to the plant. Here we report on the detection of one of these chemicals, cannabinol (CBN), preserved in a sediment record from a lake in the French Massif Central covering the past 1800 yr. The presence of this molecule in the sedimentary record is related to retting. Analysis of the evolution of CBN concentrations shows that hemp retting was a significant activity in the area until ca. A.D. 1850. These findings, supported by pollen analyses and historical data, show that this novel sedimentary tracer can help to better constrain past impacts of human activities on the environment.”

These findings show that hemp retting took place thousands of years back. Hemp was most likely one of the founding fibers of society.

This finding hasn’t garnered much attention, but will lead to further discussion, and the method used, if applied to further research, could lead to hard evidence that hemp production was an integral part of human society since its inception.


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