Hemp is an incredibly versatile and beneficial crop with many uses. It may come as no surprise that many of these uses were discovered long before our time, and as such, the history of hemp evolved.
Hemp is not a new plant or a new discovery; this excellent crop has been used worldwide for centuries and praised for its multitude of benefits. However, if you want to go way back to the very beginning, hemp evolved on earth around evolved about 28 million years ago on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, according to a pollen study. A close relative of the common hop found in beer, the plant still grows wild across Central Asia.
How far back hemp dates have yet to be uncovered precisely; however, thanks to hard work from archeologists, a lot of hemp’s history is being revealed. Evidence of hemp fabrics being used actually dates back nearly 29’000 years ago! Researchers and archeologists found a strip of hemp cloth belonging to the Gravettian people, and it is believed they cultivated hemp and hemp fabrics for nets and traps during hunting. If you want to dive into more information about this ancient tribe's use of hemp, check out our blog - The History Of Hemp Fabrics.
In a unique and more recent study, archeologists uncovered a strip of hemp fabric in Çatalhöyük, a Neotholtic site of hunter-gatherers that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
This strip of hemp fabric dates back 9000 years ago, and it is believed that the civilisations who lived in Çatalhöyük would have used it as material for clothing, ropes, cloths and other textiles.
To learn a little more about this fantastic piece of history, visit ancient origins.net to read their in-depth blog about this beautiful discovery.
Despite some historical evidence dating back thousands of years, the entire history surrounding hemp is still relatively minimal; however, much of what we know regarding hemp’s cultivation and use dates back around 10’000 years ago.
There is now evidence to support hemp production even this far back in time. In the regions of Iran and Iraq, once called Ancient Mesopotamia, archeologists who were excavating the area came across strips of cloth. Upon testing, archaeologists and scientists confirmed that this cloth had been weaved from hemp fibres that dated back 10’000 years ago.
Additionally, in Central Asia, growing and cultivating hemp also began becoming quite popular around 10’000 years ago, when the civilians there would also use it for the fabric to create clothing, ropes, nets and other textures. The Cultivation of hemp in Central Asia was prevalent, mainly because it naturally grew in Central Asia, and the people in Central Asia were familiar with the tales of Magu, the hemp maiden!
Although Magu has a fiercely fascinating origin story, we want to focus solely on hemp's remarkable history in this blog. Still, you can read all about this Asian hemp goddess in our dedicated blog - Magu, the hemp goddess.
As we learn and discover more every single day about the fascinating and long ancient history of Hemp, its modern-day history is quietly unfolding before our eyes.
A lot of hemp's modern history can be dated back to 300 years ago when hemp was widely used and a readily available crop and textile. During this time, the cultivation of hemp really stepped up its game as it became known as one of the best fabrics for boats and ships, and since we were doing plenty of sailing and discovering in this period, hemp fabric was in high demand.
Commonly used for sails, rope and cloth armies, hemp quickly became known as a fantastic boat-friendly fibre thanks to its versatility and durability. Russia, in particular, took a huge liking to the growth and cultivation of hemp, quickly becoming one of the biggest and largest cultivators and exporters of hemp-based products.
Russia became a huge exporter of hemp to Europe and Great Britain during this time when the whole world was celebrating the magic of hemp-based products. Hemp's fame steadily rose over these years until the early 1900s, when the war on drugs began and cannabis was outlawed.
The 1900s brought about a sad and terrible time period for hemp and cannabis-based products. The war on drugs was rising in America, with many protests and movies being made surrounding what was known as ‘reefer madness’, a myth that hemp and cannabis products were leading people too hard drugs, going crazy and other false symptoms.
This was taken insanely seriously throughout the entire world, and thus began the total ban and destabilising of hemp and cannabis-based products, which were banned and made illegal in almost every country in the world.
Of course, now we know the vast differences between hemp crops and cannabis crops and the effects and uses both of these different strains have. Still, back then, anything remotely cannabis related was seen as immoral, dirty and illegal.
Thankfully, hemp’s history is slowly evolving once more, with this fantastic crop makings its ascent back to the limelight. Although psychoactive cannabis is still illegal in many parts of the world, governments and the public have started to realise the immense differences between hemp and cannabis. As such, hemp has begun to become legal in most countries around the world.
Today, hemp is still being grown and cultivated for its fantastic textile benefits, proving to be a versatile, durable and resilient fabric option that is also eco-friendly, and kind to you and the environment. Hemp fabrics are used to make trendy, fashionable clothes, blankets, tents - you name it, hemp is doing it!
The history of hemp is a long and winding one, with many bumps along the way. Despite much evidence to support the vast historical significance of hemp and hemp products, research is still ongoing. However, we expect even more history unearthed over the years, possibly even suggesting even earlier uses and cultivation of hemp than we currently know!