A team of South African scientists led by anthropology professor Francis Thackeray of the University of the Witwatersrand have found traces of cannabis in some 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from William Shakespeare’s garden.
The researchers behind the study, which was published in the South African Journal of Science, examined a total of 24 pipe fragments from the town in which the famed playwright and poet lived, Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Using advanced gas chromatography techniques, the researchers detected weed residue on 8 of the 24 fragments — all of which were loaned to the University of the Witwatersrand by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The Telegraph reports that four of the fragments containing traces of marijuana were excavated from the Englishman’s garden.
The Bard of Avon, who was born in 1564 and died in 1616, wrote in Sonnet 76 about “invention in a noted weed” — a reference which, according to Thackeray, could be interpreted as an indication that he was willing to use “weed” while he was writing.
James Shapiro, a Columbia University professor who has published books on the Bard, was quoted by The Huffington Post as having said that there are “a million possible explanations” for the marijuana residue on the pipes found in Shakespeare’s garden.
We don’t know what Shakespeare did or didn’t do (…) Just because these pipes were found in his garden doesn’t mean his neighbor kid didn’t throw the pipes over the fence. There are a million possible explanations.
Shapiro also noted that there’s no evidence to support the notion that “weed” was used as a reference to cannabis during the playwright’s time on Earth.
On a couple of the pipes, which were not found on Shakespeare’s property, the researchers detected evidence of cocaine.
In Sonnet 76, Shakespeare doesn’t just reference weed, he also references “compounds strange” — possibly a reference to strange compounds such as cocaine, according to Thackeray — as something which he would prefer not to associate with.
What do you think, was William Shakespeare really smoking pot out of those pipes?