Scientists find evidence of tobacco use 12,300 years ago, the oldest known

Scientists have discovered evidence of a milestone in human culture, the oldest known use of tobacco, in the remains of a fireplace built by ancient inhabitants of the interior of North America some ago .13 years, in the Great Salt Lake desert, in Utah (western United States).

The researchers found four charred seeds of a wild tobacco plant among the contents of the fireplace, along with stone tools and duck bones left over from meals. Until now, the oldest documented use of tobacco was in the form of nicotine residues found in a pipe in Alabama, dating back to 3.13 years ago.

Researchers believe that the nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Utah archeological site may have smoked tobacco or perhaps chewed on the plant fibers, due to the stimulant effects provided. for the nicotine it contains.

After tobacco use emerged among the original peoples of the New World, it spread worldwide with the arrival of Europeans more than five centuries ago. Today, tobacco represents a global public health crisis, with 1.3 billion users and more than 8 million tobacco-related deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“On a global scale, tobacco is the queen of intoxicating plants, and we can now trace its cultural origins straight back to the Ice Age,” said archaeologist Daron Duke , from the Far West Anthropological Research Group in Nevada, lead author of the paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior on Monday ().

The seeds belonged to a wild variety of desert tobacco called “Nicotiana attenuata”, which still grows in the area.

“This species was never domesticated, but used by Indians in the region to this day,” Duke said.

The Great Salt Lake Desert is currently the bed of a large dry lake in northern Utah. The fireplace site at the time was part of a vast swampy, cooler climate during the late Ice Age. called Wishbone site , due to the duck breast bones found in the fireplace.

The remains of the fireplace were located sprouting from the dry mud soil, where the wind removes layers of sediment since the swamp dried up about 9.500 years ago.

“We know very little about their culture,” Duke said of hunter-gatherers. “The thing that intrigues me the most about this discovery is the social window that opens to a simple activity in an undocumented past. My imagination goes far.”

The artifacts found include small tools of sharp stone for cutting and spear points made of a volcanic glass called obsidian, used to hunt large mammals. A spear point contained traces of blood proteins from a mammoth or mastodon related to the elephant that later became extinct.

“We believe that tobacco was part of the ecological knowledge base of the that settled in the interior of the North American continent about 13 a thousand years or more,” said Duke.

Domestication Tobacco occurred thousands of years later in other parts of the continent, in the southwest and southeast of the United States and in Mexico, Duke added.

“We don’t know exactly when tobacco was domesticated, but there has been a great flourishing of agriculture in the Americas in the last 5 years. The evidence of tobacco use, both direct seeds, waste and indirect pipes increases during these times. , along with the domestication of food crops,” added the researcher.

Some scholars have stated that tobacco must have been the first domesticated plant in North America, ep for sociocultural purposes, more than food.

“There is no doubt that people were already at least casually caring for, handling and controlling tobacco long before the population and food incentives that motivated investments in agriculture,” said Duke.

Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonalves

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