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The archaeological record shows that China was the earliest region to cultivate and use hemp.  From the time of the earliest primitive societies (about 4,000 -5,000 years ago) to the Qin and Hah dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD) ancient Chinese techniques of hemp sowing, cultivation, and processing developed rapidly and became fairly advanced.

 The earliest Neolithic farming communities along the Wei and Yellow rivers cultivated hemp along with millet, wheat, beans, and rice.   The oldest Chinese agricultural treatise is the Xia Xiao Zheng written circa the 16th century BC which names hemp as one of the main crops grown in ancient China.  The ancient Chinese used the hemp plant for many different purposes.  The bast fiber of the male plant was used to spin yarn and weave cloth.  From the time of the earliest Chinese societies, until cotton was introduced into China during the Northern Song dynasty (960 to 1127 AD), hemp textile was the main cloth worn by the ancient Chinese.  Many of the accounts of hemp use for cordage and textiles contained in the ancient Chinese texts have been corroborated by archaeological discoveries. Xiaozhia Lu & R. Clarke, THE CULTIVATION AND USES OF HEMP IN ANCIENT CHINA.

In 1765, George Washington, the first president of the United States, plants hemp and admonished “Sow it everywhere”. Hemp plays a role in at least one minor US land battle, which later is dubbed ‘The Battle of the Hemp Bales’. In 1863, the Confederate Missouri State Guard attacks Union forces in Lexington but cannot drive the 3,500 Union soldiers from their trenches. After two days of fighting, Confederate General Price orders his men to make moveable breastworks from hemp bales from the town’s rope works. Thus able to hide behind these effective shields, the Confederates are able to break through the Union lines. The battlefield is now a historic site, but Civil War re-enactors, who work hard to make their hobby authentic, cannot obtain real hemp bales. innavista.com.

Thomas Jefferson drafted the United States Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.  In the Napoleonic era, many military uniforms were made of hemp. While hemp linens were coarser than those made of flax, the added strength and durability of hemp, as well as the lower cost, meant that hemp uniforms were preferred.  Hemp was used extensively by the U. S. during WWII. Uniforms, canvas, and rope were among the main textiles created from the hemp plant. Wikipedia.

These new research methods are changing opinions on the history of hemp cultivation in Finland.  According to current opinion, hemp cultivation reached Finland from Russia (through Karelia, an area bordering modern Finland and Russia) approximately in the 14th century.  There is, however, very little recorded information concerning hemp in Finland, even from the 16th century.  However, the lack of written source material does not mean that hemp would not have been cultivated in Finland before this time.  Paleoecological and macro-fossil researches, which have become more common during the last few years, have begun to establish earlier cultivation dates and broader geographic distributions of hemp cultivation in Finland. 

The oldest site of hemp cultivation in Finland is on Ahvenanmaa (a large island between Finland and Sweden).  In macro-fossil studies, hemp seeds were found in a habitation and burial complex near the present castle of Kastelholma.   They were dated from the Viking age (800-1050 AD).  Hemp seeds have been found in several south-western excavations in Finland, dating from a long continuous period from 1100-1500 AD.  Hemp was a commercial commodity during that time.  Usually it was traded as fiber and not as seed.  Thus, the seed discoveries indicate that in this area, hemp was cultivated and not imported. 

An interesting discovery was made in Suojoki (county of Keuruu in Central Finland).  In the beginning of 1990, excavations were made in a boggy meadow bordering a lake where large quantities of boat parts were found (e.g., main boat parts, planks, oars, etc.).  The cracks between the planks had been caulked with tarred hemp.  Hemp serves this purpose well, since it does not rot as quickly as flax.  The discoveries in Keuruu have been dated to be from the 13th century. Erkki Laitinen, HISTORY OF HEMP IN FINLAND.

Cannabis hemp was widely grown across Britain in the Middle Ages, from at least 800 to 1800 AD, though the amount grown varied widely through the centuries. The evidence that hemp was grown in Britain comes in several different forms. First there is some written evidence in parish records and government reports. There aren't that many references to hemp, because agricultural practices were not widely written about. Secondly there are many places in Britain today with names such as Hemphill or Hempriggs, and many more places are marked on old maps such as Hemp-buttis, Hempisfield and Hempriggis. Thirdly there is evidence from pollen analysis of lake sediments. http://www.ukcia.org/culture/history/hmpukhis.html.

Crosby, Alfred, AMERICA, RUSSIA, HEMP AND NAPOLEON, Ohio State University Press, 1965
Andrews, G., and S. Vinkenoog, eds. THE BOOK OF GRASS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF INDIAN HEMP, NY, Gross Press, 1967
Mills, James, CANNABIS BRITANNICA: EMPIRE, TRADE AND PROHIBITION 1800-1928, Oxford University Press, 2003
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Herer, Jack, THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES, AH HA Publishing, 1985
Conrad, Chris, HEMP: LIFELINE TO THE FUTURE, Creative Xpressions Publications, 1994
Rosenthal, Ed, ed., HEMP TODAY, Quick American Archives, 1994
Robinson, Rowan, THE GREAT BOOK OF HEMP, Park Street Press, 1996
Hopkins, J.F., A HISTORY OF THE HEMP INDUSTRY IN KENTUCKY, University of Kentucky Press, 1951
Rosenthal, Ed, ed., HEMP TODAY, Quick American Archives, 1994
Abel, Earnest, MARIJUANA, THE FIRST TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS, Phenum Press, New York, 1980.
Allen, James Lane, THE REIGN OF LAW: A TALE OF THE KENTUCKY HEMP FIELDS, The MacMillian Company, 1900
Bennett, Chris and Neil McQueen, SEX, DRUGS, VIOLENCE AND THE BIBLE, Forbidden Fruit Publishing Co., B.C., 2001

International Hempology 101 Society

Cannabis Buyers' Clubs of Canada