Smoking and Culture: The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in Eastern North America

Article excerpt

Smoking and Culture: The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in Eastern North America * Scan M. Rafferty and Rob Mann, eds. * Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004 * xx, 324 pp. * $48.00

It is a wonderful time to be a historical archaeologist. After facing the expected growing pains, this relatively new field has begun producing exciting and relevant scholarship in a consistent manner. Innovative methods of study and new theoretical approaches have allowed for the abandonment of the largely descriptive approach employed during the early years of the field. Today's scholarship is designed to explore the relationship between artifacts and the cultures that generated them.

One area of research that has clearly benefited from these innovations is the study of smoking pipes. Recent discoveries and new approaches to interpreting artifacts have produced remarkable advances in understanding tobacco pipe production and use. In Maryland, Al Luckenback has uncovered the remains of a substantial seventeenth-century pipe-making operation. His discoveries will force scholars to reconsider their ideas on the nature and significance of Chesapeake-made pipes. In England, Allan Peacey spent the last twenty years excavating and recording pipe-making operations. He examined more than 140 pipe kilns and focused, in part, on understanding the trade networks involved in pipe production. This information can be used to extrapolate details about pipe making and marketing in the Chesapeake. For Virginia, Anna Agbe-Davis developed a new method of analyzing Chesapeake-made pipes, looking mostly at manufacturing attributes in order to address questions regarding production and distribution. These new discoveries and techniques promise to move tobacco pipes from the ranks of uncomplicated chronological markers to their rightful place as noteworthy conveyors of cultural meaning.

Smoking and Culture: The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in Eastern North America is an outstanding example of what is possible when new methods and theoretical frameworks are applied to tobacco pipes. Editors Scan Rafferty and Rob Mann have put together a first-rate volume of essays that demonstrates the potential of archaeology in the twenty-first century. The contributors explore the cultural meaning associated with smoking and tobacco pipes in a variety of societies that made and used them. …