Clay pipe bowl dating

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As part of the #100Symposium, we have been trying out different ways of training staff, developing skills, and increasing awareness of the various facets of the archaeology of London.

At the start of site we ran a series of short handling sessions using an assemblage of unstratified clay tobacco pipes we had recovered during the watching brief phase.

The pipes are fairly fragile and regularly change form over time, which makes them a great dating tool as well as being intrinsically nice objects.

Most of our site staff hadn’t dug up many clay pipes previously, and were mostly unaware of the great dating potential of pipe bowls in post-medieval deposits, as well as the subtle changes in form that indicate each pipe’s date.

Some suggested that all the pipes could be contemporary and different forms were intended for sale to different markets.Pipes can range from very simple machine-made briar models to highly prized hand-made artisanal implements made by renowned pipemakers, which are often very expensive collector's items.Pipe smoking is the oldest known traditional form of tobacco smoking.As tobacco was not introduced to the Old World until the 16th century, the older pipes outside of the Americas were usually used to smoke hashish, a rare and expensive substance outside areas of the Middle East, Central Asia and India, where it was then produced.A pipe's fundamental function is to provide a relatively safe, manipulable volume in which to incompletely combust tobacco (and/or other smokable substances) while allowing the smoke drawn from this combustion to cool sufficiently for inhalation by the smoker.

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