Inhaling Prehistory: Exploring the Smoking Culture of the Eastern Woodlands


Pipes, pipe-smoked plants, and the tradition of smoking in the Eastern Woodlands of North America have long interested anthropologists and archaeologists because these artifacts and activities are viewed as material correlates of ritual, ceremonial, and religious activities. While pipes are regularly recovered from archaeological sites, the remains of plants materials that were smoked are far more difficult to recover. Traditionally, the identification of pipe-smoked plants, such as tobacco, have been identified through the analysis of macroremains recovered from archaeological sites. The earliest comes from Middle Woodland period contexts at the Smiling Dan site in Illinois. However, pipes themselves predate evidence of tobacco in the region, leaving many questions unanswered about the smoking culture. Over the past two decades’ chemical analysis of pipe residues have made substantial contributions in this area. A chemical signature for nicotine identified in a pipe from West Virginia demonstrated the efficacy of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and pushed the earliest dates for tobacco use back approximately 2,000 years. Here, we present the results of our recent GC/MS study on pipe residues from the region. We use these results to contribute to ongoing investigations into the timing, transmission, use, and customs surrounding tobacco and the smoking culture.

Cite this Record

Inhaling Prehistory: Exploring the Smoking Culture of the Eastern Woodlands. Stephen Carmody, Ryan Hunt, Jera Davis, Natalie Prodanovich, Jon Russ. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431910)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15445