Recent palaeoenvironmental evidence for the processing of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) in eastern England during the medieval period

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  • B.R. Gearey
  • A.R. Hall
  • M.J. Bunting
  • M.C. Lillie
  • H. Kenward
  • J. Carrott


Publication details

JournalMedieval Archaeology
DatePublished - Jan 2005
Issue number1
Number of pages5
Pages (from-to)317-322
Original languageEnglish


[FIRST PARAGRAPH] Hemp (Cannabissativa L.)— whose origins as a domesticated plant probably lie in C.Asia — has been cultivated in England since at least a.d.800 (and before this perhaps in the Roman Period), mainly for its ¿bre, which was used to make sails, ropes, ¿shing nets and clothes, as well as for the oil from hempseed. Hemp cultivation may have reached a peak during the early 16th century, when Henry VIII decreed that increased hemp production was required to supply the expanding navy. Evidence for the locations where the crop was cultivated and processed is available in several different forms, including written evidence in parish records and government reports, place-name evidence (e.g.Hempholme and some instances of Hempstead), and features on old maps, such as Hempis¿eld (hemp¿eld).

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