Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

When and How Did Cannabis Reach Europe and the Iberian Peninsula?

Version 1 : Received: 24 November 2021 / Approved: 25 November 2021 / Online: 25 November 2021 (08:29:49 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 1 December 2021 / Approved: 2 December 2021 / Online: 2 December 2021 (08:55:17 CET)

How to cite: Rull, V. When and How Did Cannabis Reach Europe and the Iberian Peninsula?. Preprints 2021, 2021110463. Rull, V. When and How Did Cannabis Reach Europe and the Iberian Peninsula?. Preprints 2021, 2021110463.


Cannabis is among the oldest human domesticates and has been subjected to intensive artificial (human-mediated) selection through history, to create a wide array of varieties and biotypes for a diversity or uses, including fiber, food, biofuel, medicine and drugs, among others. This paper briefly reviews the available literature on the taxonomy, the evolutionary origin and the domestication of this plant, as well as its worldwide dispersal, either in its wild and cultivated forms. Emphasis is placed on Europe and especially on the Iberian Peninsula, which is the main target of this study. Today it is accepted that Cannabis is a monospecific genus with two subspecies, C. sativa subsp. sativa and C. sativa subsp. indica, originated in Europe and Asia, respectively, by allopatric differentiation after geographical isolation fostered by Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles. Palynological and phylogeographical evidence situate the Cannabis ancestor in the NE Tibetan Plateau during the Oligocene (ca. 28 Ma). The timing and place of domestication is still a matter of debate between contrasting views that defend single or multiple domestication centers, situated in different parts of the Eurasian supercontinent, notably central/southeastern China and the Caucasus region. Recent meta-analyses suggest that wild Cannabis may have been spread across Europe already in the Pleistocene (ca. 1 Ma), and its domestication could have been occurred during the European Copper/Bronze ages (7-5 kyr BP). According to the available reviews and meta-analyses, pre-anthropic dispersal of Cannabis into the Iberian Peninsula seems to have been occurred only in post-glacial times (18.5-15 kyr BP) and the earlier signs of cultivation date to the Early Medieval Ages (ca. 600 CE). However, the palynological and archaeological evidence used to date is insufficient for a sound assessment and the development of thorough Iberian databases to address further meta-analysis are essential for more robust conclusions. Some clues are provided for these achievements to be fulfilled.


taxonomy; biogeography; evolution; domestication; dispersal; pollen; archaeology; hemp; drugs


Environmental and Earth Sciences, Paleontology

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