436 A Short Telling of the Long History of Smoking Pipes

Contributor: Mark Bishop

Since time immemorial, smokers have loved their smoking accessories as much as they love their smoke. Modern smoking accessories range from rolling papers to vape pens to bubblers, but the most popular smoking tool is still the pipe. 

Pipes have been used for millennia and are still used today because of their superior functionality. In recent times, glass-blowers have turned pipe-making into a niche art form for smokers to enjoy and collect. From pipes with mushrooms growing out of them to candy-cane pipes, alien pipes, animal pipes, and more, modern smokers can collect functional glass art of all types based on their unique creative tastes.

The History of Pipes

The first known smoking pipes found in the archeological record date back to 2,000 B.C., about 4,000 years ago. Archeologists uncovered humanity’s oldest known smoking pipes in Egyptian burial tombs next to the mummies of ancient smokers. These ancient pipes, fashioned from copper, may have been used strictly for ceremonial purposes, but scholars have not ruled out recreational use. 

Pipes were used in many ancient cultures across the globe to smoke various indigenous herbs and smoking blends. From the Indo-Europeans to the Native Americans to the peoples of the Far East and Africa, pipes are part of nearly every culture’s history. To understand why pipes are the most popular smoking invention of all time, look to their superior functionality to find the answer.

The Superior Functionality of Pipes

Sometimes primitive designs are the most effective. Pipes have been around for thousands of years because of their simplicity of design and use. 

Materials, production methods, and artistic flourishes have varied across cultures and eras, but the basic engineering of pipe-making has scarcely evolved for 4,000-plus years. No matter what its material constitution or which artistic motif it displays, every pipe has two main components:

  • The stem
  • The bowl

The only modern addition to pipes’ functional design is the “carb” (short for carburetor), a small hole meant to be covered by the smoker’s thumb to regulate airflow and better control the speed at which the herbs in the bowl burn. While the carb is a helpful design feature, the pipe doesn’t need one to fulfill its function. 

Glass Pipes

Ancient pipes consisted of various metals, stones, wood, and horns, but in the 1970s, a glass blower named Bob Snodgrass took to the craft of pipe-making and revolutionized the industry. Today, all glass pipe-makers use the techniques that Bob pioneered. Without his innovation, there would be no glass candy, alien, or animal pipes to choose from at the local head shop.

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