The discovery was made during a collaborative project between the Israeli antiquarian authorities and the Weizmann research institute.
The project began in 2012, when excavations in the Israeli city of Yehud uncovered a series of burial sites from the Late Bronze Age.
Now the archaeologists have made a somewhat unusual discovery at one of the burial sites, The Guardian writes, among others.
In a total of eight jars, they discovered traces of opium, which according to Store norske lexikon has roughly the same effect as morphine. According to archaeologists, they date from the 13th century before our era.
One of the archaeologists, Ron Be’eri, explains that they were probably placed in the burial sites to be used in ceremonial meals and rituals.
One hypothesis is that priests or bereaved family members during these ceremonies used the opium to achieve an ecstatic state and attempt to summon the spirits of the deceased.
– It is also possible that the opium, which was placed next to the dead, was supposed to help the person’s soul rise from the grave to prepare them for meeting family members in their next life, Be’eri said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Described in older writings
The hypotheses are based on older writings that describe the burial rituals in what was then Canaan, an area that today includes Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, among others.
The archaeologists emphasize that it is currently not possible to say with certainty exactly how the narcotic substance was used during these ceremonies.
According to Reuters, the discovery is one of the oldest examples in history of the use of the narcotic drug. The news agency writes that some of the opium was produced locally, while some came from Cyprus.