Pre-Columbian tobacco pipes
History of smoking started in Central and South America, where tobacco is a native plant. The Jama-Coaque culture of Ecuador was already smoking before 500 BC. Their tubular pipes can be sculpturally decorated.
In Mexico, many pre-Columbian pipes are found in shaft tombs, an indication of their ritual use. The pipes are well preserved because they are made of earthenware, a fire-resistant material which is important for a pipe.
In the classical period, from the year 0 to 900, many pipes in the Michoacan area of western Mexico are sculptured. Decorated pipes in the shape of a ribbed mescaline cactus were popular. In addition, numerous other designs have been worked out over time, such as pipes with a triangular platform at the front of the pipe bowl.
The Purepecha or Tarascan of the later era, around 1200, are known for their pipes with large funnel-shaped bowls. At the bottom of the bowl we see two slender legs. Glaze did not exist in that period, but instead a beautifully polished engobe provided a light shine and exclusive appearance.