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Earliest Archaic Smoking Instruments

y Col.John F. Berner, Roswell, Georgia

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.57, No.2, pg.73


The earliest dated prehistoric North American smoking instrument is identified as a mid-archaic tapered tubular pipe. Often found with Glacial Kame burials in the Northern states of Ohio, Indi­ana and Michigan, these finely crafted stone pipes are made primarily of quartzite, diorite and occa­sionally banded slate.

The design consists of a tapered tubular device with a large orifice for the bowl and a constricted end for the stem. These instruments were smoked without a supplemental stem. On several instanc­es of discovery, the small inside end of the tube was restricted by a pebble or tapered antler plug to prevent burning substances from entering the mouth of the smoker. The tubular orifice was care­fully enlarged by the use of various sizes of solid stick drills with the application of quartz sand with animal tallow as a drilling lubricant.

The particular example shown above illustrates the remnants of the pecking process and a finished polish overall. This archaic tubular pipe shows evidence of slight minor damage at the bowl edg­es, probably caused by the removal of a hardened cake of smoking substance.

It is not known if the users of these particular early smoking devices employed tobacco as we know it today. Ancient smokers used a variety sub­stances which included fragrant barks and plants, many which produced a variety of results; some for medicinal purposes, others induced trances and sometimes encouraged vomiting for internal purification. The details surrounding these early smoking devices is critical to understanding their authenticity and recognition.

At top: An archaic tubular smoking pipe, made of dark greenish black Diorite, found around 1945 at LaGrange County, Indiana; 2 miles west of Stroh. It measures 4 3/4″ in length with a 11/16″ bowl orifice, 1/4″ exit stem hole.

“Used by Permission of the Author”

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