Several 17th century clay pipes have been found on the site of Shakespeare’s home that show signs of marijuana, scientists said. Two of the pipe samples also showed evidence of cocaine.
While there is controversy over whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays attributed to him, he was a known figure in his day and the site where he lived with his family has also been identified.
“The cocaine found is really quite remarkable,” said paleontologist Dr. Francis Thackeray. “Cocaine was recorded in Europe about 200 years ago, but to our knowledge never this early.
“The Spanish had access to it at that time in the Americas but the fact that it was smoked in England at that time is a first.” Thackeray was also surprised to find the cannabis. Although hemp was widely used for ropes, there has been little evidence that it was smoked.
“Apparently no chemical analyses have been undertaken to determine what substances other than tobacco may have been smoked in England during the 17th century,” he said. He examined the pipe fragments using gas chromatography, with the help of Inspector Tommie van der Merwe of the South African Police’s Forensic Science Laboratory.
“There is some suggestive evidence in Shakespeare’s own writing,” said Thackeray. “In Sonnet 76 he refers to the ‘invention of a noted weed’ which may have been a reference to cannabis. In the same sonnet, he refers to ‘compounds strange’ and the word compounds is a known reference to drugs.”
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