According to a new study, people in North America and Eurasia — including the people living in Europe and Asia — were using tobacco at least 12,000 years ago. Researchers led by the University of Stirling, published their study in the Journal of Tobacco Research, analyzing 420 bone fragments from the Australian Outback, where Indigenous Australians have long documented the use of tobacco. They found that the remains dated to the Bronze Age, which is roughly 10,000 years ago. These dates rule out the use of the plant during the Second Plateau, an era from 14,000 to 4,500 years ago, a period generally attributed to the appearance of the Neolithic, and the Thirteenth-Degree Age, a time of Agricultural Development in Europe.
“Many people did not believe we were using tobacco today,” said lead author Dr. Ben Ward, who explained that only one or two people in the Outback knew the technology of cultivating plants — and smoked them — and no one knew how to reap the tobacco leaves and smoke them. They also discovered that while people used dried tobacco leaves for cooking, they first made pipe tobacco. Using different techniques, they were able to smoke and transform the plants into the present-day tobacco. They also found that different regions in the Outback — such as Queensland — worked different rhythms when it came to tobacco use.
The researchers have also sequenced the genome of tobacco, which reveals that plants from North America and Siberia are the most closely related plants. They also found that plant commonalities in the genomes of humans living today are not as significant as those in those plants.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
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