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Scientists want to dig up Shakespeare to find out if he smoked weed

By David Edwards
Thursday, June 23, 2011 16:11 EDT
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Recently uncovered evidence suggests that William Shakespeare used marijuana, and now a team of paleontologists want to dig him up to prove it.

Francis Thackeray, an anthropologist and director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has made a formal request to the Church of England to unearth the playwright.

“We have incredible techniques,” Thackeray told Fox News. “We don’t intend to move the remains at all.”

After determining the identity of the remains, Thackeray’s team hopes to find out more about Shakespeare’s life and even the cause of his death.

“Growth increments in the teeth will reveal if he went through periods of stress or illness — a plague for example, which killed many people in the 1600s,” he said.

Further tests should be able to ascertain if the bard smoked marijuana.

“If we find grooves between the canine and the incisor, that will tell us if he was chewing on a pipe as well as smoking,” Thackeray explained.

Pipes uncovered in the garden of Shakespeare’s home in 2001 showed evidence of cannabis and cocaine.

“There were very low concentrations of cannabis, but the signature was there,” according to Inspector Tommy van der Merwe, who tested the pipes at South Africa’s Forensic Science Laboratory.

The evidence of cocaine was also very strong.

“The pipes we tested still had dirt in them which preserved the residues inside the stem and bowl,” Van der Merwe said. “The readings we got were the same as if it had tested a modern-day crack pipe.”

Camphor, myristic acid, and quinoline were among other substances detected in the pipes.

“Myristic acid, which is found in nutmeg, has hallucinogenic properties, and camphor, perhaps, was used to hide the smell of tobacco or other substances,” Thackeray noted in 2001.

Sonnet 76 of Shakespeare’s poems contains a reference to the “noted weed.”

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
 
 
 
 
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