Humans have been smoking tobacco for thousands of years, and DNA analysis of ancient ash particles have revealed that we were burning cigars and cigars within 200 to 500 years after man first emerged.
A study led by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy has found that tobacco use had increased over time and that there was far more processing involved in producing tobacco and reviving corpses to use it. Human antiquity is said to have corresponded to 56 million years ago, back when marsupials used fire in burials.
Those involved in the research, however, have admitted that more than one theory exists in trying to date the human past. “Tobacco has long been associated with ancient cultures and people throughout the world, so I think that the coincidence of smoking being used in archaeological sites much earlier than the relatively recent discovery of modern use in modern populations is likely,” said Dr Ben Tanzer, one of the researchers. “The fact that tobacco is a known carcinogen [cancer causing agent] means that, while it may be considered a modern habit, it is very unlikely to have been a novel use in prehistory.”
While cigarettes were prevalent in ancient times, other things were smoked at a far more low-tech level. Cask-and-sealed-can fires were often used for cooking and drinking of all kinds, smoking was common, and there were also ceremonial uses that found their way into traditional artefacts, including clay pigs used in funerals and pottery horses used in ceremonies.
Asked about the ancestors of today’s smokers, Tanzer pointed out, “Just as we can trace the modern way of smoking back to our predecessors thousands of years ago, so we can trace the modern, subtle ways of using tobacco back even further into our distant past.”