Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) cultivation and utilization is an ancient practice to human civilization. There are some controversies on the origin and subsequent spread of this species. Ancient plant DNA has proven to be a powerful tool to solve phylogenetic problems. In this study, ancient DNA was extracted from an archaeological specimen of Cannabis sativa associated with archaeological human remains from China. Ribosomal and Cannabis specific chloroplast DNA regions were PCR amplified. Sequencing of a species-specific region and subsequent comparison with published sequences were performed. Successful amplification, sequencing and sequence comparison with published data suggested the presence of hemp specific DNA in the archeological specimen. The role of Humulus japonicus Sieb. et Zucc. in the evolution of Cannabis is also indicated. The identification of ancient DNA of 2500 years old C. sativa sample showed that C. sativa races might have been introduced into China from the European-Siberian center of diversity. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.