Clay Pipes from the Jason Russell House Archaeological Dig: March 1985

Pipe stems and bowls such as these are very common among finds at digs in the northeastern United States, given how common they were during the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They were made of kaolin, a type of clay that was pressed into a mold and sometimes stamped or decorated before being fired in a kiln. The smoker would periodically break off pieces of the pipe stem as they wore down and eventually discard the whole pipe, including the bowl. They were a disposable item.

For archaeologists, clay pipe stems and bowls can help “date” a layer or a feature at a dig. Bowls and stems might be decorated with pictures or the maker’s or user’s initials, which could possibly be identified. The relative size and shape of a pipe bowl or stem is also often an indicator of its age; earlier pipe bowls are smaller, and newer ones are larger. The diameter of the hole in the pipe stem generally indicates the date the pipe was made. Archaeologists often use drill bits to measure the diameter of pipe stem holes. In general, the wider the stem hole, the older the pipe. My educated guess is that these pipes date to the late 19th century, but I’m hoping to have time in the future to do some more research into these pipe stems and bowls. Based on the diagnostic information they show, my goal is to figure out the meanings and contexts behind the words and symbols stamped into the pipes, and to measure the diameters of the stems for a more definitive date of manufacture.HA2 HA8 HA7 HA6 HA3 HA4 HA5

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