Clay pipe reports are now a standard feature of archaeological reports of sites with a significant Post-Medieval or Modern component.

dating clay smoking pipes-73

Despite this, clay pipe studies remain under theorised.

They are focused almost exclusively upon clay pipes as isolated artefact without seeking to place them in any more meaningful context in contrast to studies for the Middle East (Baram 1999), Australia (Gojak and Stuart 1999) or on sites in America (Pena and Denmon 2000: 90-92) [ Footnote 2].

For more information on identifying and dating clay pipes found on site, this useful guide has been produced by Urban Archaeology and reproduced with their permission.

Studies of clay pipes represent one of the major fields of research in Post-Medieval archaeology but one that generally remains under-theorised, fetishising and decontextualising a class of artefact due to its prominence in the archaeological record and its suitability for typological dating.

By doing this, it is possible to link practice in the present (the study of clay pipes) with meaningful practice in the past (smoking and the consumption of tobacco).

This approach seeks to simultaneously contextualise archaeological clay pipe fragments as part of a larger "tobacco consumption package" and critique the nature of the relationship between clay pipe fragments and tobacco consumption so that the material can play a richer and more relevant role in Post-Medieval archaeology and contribute to wider disciplinary issues.

Whilst both of these purposes are valid, they ignore the primary role of the clay pipes in the past.

A more recent development is to consider assemblages in terms of their socio-economic implications.

Many excavation reports seize upon typologies of clay pipes and makers marks of identified individuals as dating evidence, and this is often the only use to which they are put, a common fate for artefact assemblages from excavated sites (Blinkhorn and Cumberpatch 1997).

A second relatively widespread use is to examine the sources from which the clay pipes at a site were obtained, predominantly through those examples with identifiable makers marks.

In certain respects this publication highlights the 1970s as marking a defining era for the study of clay pipes.