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The Scythian gold vessels discovered in Russia (screenshot from, via

In “a once-in-a-century discovery,” archaeologists excavating in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia have discovered two intact, solid gold vessels used by the Scythians, an ancient nomadic people who ruled parts of Eurasia between the 9th century BCE and 4th century CE. The vessels, which date back 2,400 years, were found in a large grave mound along with gold cups, rings, necklaces, and bracelet — and they were used for drugs.

On the gold vessels at the time of their unearthing was a black residue, which the archaeologists asked some criminologists to analyze. They found traces of cannabis and opium, seemingly confirming a practice that was written about by Greek historian Herodotus: “the Scythians used a plant to produce smoke ‘that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass … transported by the vapor, [they] shout aloud.’”

The Scythians, in other words, got really high before going off to fight. The opium must have helped them stay focused, while the marijuana assuaged those pre-battle jitters. And that means these solid gold vessels might be the world’s earliest known … well, I wouldn’t quite call them bongs, but each one certainly resembles a high-art pot.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...