The discovery of some charred tobacco seeds in an ancient chimney in the Utah desert dating back about 12,300 years to the time of the very first Americans
Experts have found evidence that people were using tobacco nearly 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
The remains of charred tobacco plants, approximately 12,300 years old, were found in an old chimney in the Utah desert, dating from the time of the very first Americans.
The hunter-gatherer societies that first colonized America appear to have consumed tobacco much earlier than archaeologists realized.
The earliest earliest evidence of human tobacco use was nicotine residue, found in pipes in Alabama and dating back approximately 3,300 years.
There was evidence in the fireplace that these early Americans cooked and ate animals, especially duck, but it was the unexpected evidence of smoking that astonished the research team at the Far Western Anthropological Research Group in Henderson, Nevada.
Daron Duke, a team leader, told Live Science that the tobacco seeds were “an unexpected surprise.”
The researchers ruled out the theories that the tobacco plant might have been present in the ducks’ bellies or was used as firewood before finding that the demon herb was used on purpose.
“People in the past were the ultimate botanists and quickly recognized the intoxicating values of tobacco when they first arrived in America,” said Duke.
He added that he worked with the descendants of these first Americans to find out what oral tradition has come down about them:
“We worked to get indigenous opinions about the meaning and importance of the find,” said Duke.
“This will not only help us understand the find for the usual scientific reasons, but also learn more about its values for the people whose ancestors camped at the site and lived throughout the region.
“This is really important for the broader purpose of doing this science in the first place, so that we can understand the implications of different interests.”
Tobacco has shaped the modern world by making up a large part of the American economy, and this extraordinary find shows how long ago the smoking habit began.