Pipes Show Cocaine Smoked in Shakespeare's England

Pipes Show Cocaine Smoked in Shakespeare's England
Posted by FoM on March 01, 2001 at 07:23:10 PT
By Ed Stoddard
Source: Reuters
Was William Shakespeare partial to a good deal more than a pinch of tobacco while composing his sonnets? While there is no proof the bard delved into narcotics, clay pipe fragments excavated from his Stratford-upon-Avon home and of the 17th century period show conclusively that cocaine and myristic acid -- a hallucinogenic derived from plants, including nutmeg -- were smoked in Shakespeare's England. 
The findings, published in the latest issue of the South African Journal of Science, also show hints of residues of cannabis or marijuana, but this has not been proven. Nicotine, unsurprisingly, was one of the compounds firmly identified. ``The cocaine was found in two of the 24 pipe fragments examined, which is really quite remarkable,'' Dr. Francis Thackeray, a paleontologist at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria who co-write the article, told Reuters. ``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. It is quite a find,'' said Thackeray, who is a distant relative of the famous 19th century English author. ``Cocaine was recorded in Europe about 200 years ago, but to our knowledge never this early,'' he said. ``...apparently no chemical analyzes have been undertaken to determine what substances other than tobacco may have been smoked in England during the 17th century,'' the article said. It said cannabis sativa, the plant from which marijuana is derived, ``was certainly accessible in Elizabethan England for paper, rope, garments and sails.'' The fragments, which were lent to Thackeray by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, were examined with the help of Inspector Tommie van der Merwe of the South African Police Service's Forensic Science Laboratory. Drug-Induced Poetry and Prose?The findings are certain to spark tantalizing speculation that England's favorite writer may have been inspired to write his enduring classics while under the influence of substances associated with bohemian authors of the 20th century. ``There is some suggestive evidence in Shakespeare's own writing,'' said Thackeray. ``In sonnet 76 he refers to a 'noted weed' which may have been a reference to cannabis,'' he said. ``In the same sonnet, he refers to 'compounds strange' and the word compounds is a known reference to drugs,'' he said. ``But I think Shakespeare, who may have experimented with these substances, is saying he would rather turn away from them. I would not read it as an endorsement of drug use,'' he said. Source: ReutersAuthor: Ed StoddardPublished: March 1, 2001Copyright: 2001 Reuters Limited. Website: Articles:Cape Colony Founded On A Pipe Dream? Bard and Dope
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Comment #2 posted by r.earing on March 01, 2001 at 09:22:46 PT:
same funny thing 
I agree with the DR.Unrefined coca leaves would have had a hard time in storage on a leaky boat trip.Most likely would have been compost by the time of reaching England.That said,Cannabisculture magazine reported several years ago that authentic Egyptian mummies were found to have traces of coke and tobbaco in them.Both of which are out of date as far as any KNOWN trade.Both are new world items that should have been unknown to the Egyptians.If there was an early trade route,say west african coast to the carribean,this would make sense,but ....
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on March 01, 2001 at 08:40:01 PT:
Old Ground, Questionable Science
We've been over this before. "Noted weed," has nothing to do with cannabis. If I remember correctly, it refers to clothing.I suspect that the cocaine residues found on the pipe were contaminants. The British and Spanish were enemies, and I am not sure how much trade of things such as coca leaves existed at the time, if any. I doubt that free base technology was prevalent in the time of Shakespeare. 
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