The Spaniards had known of the alleged benefits of tobacco smoking for close on a hundred years, having discovered its use from the conquered Indians of Central America.
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An early explanation for their ubiquity had it that in colonial-era taverns pipes passed from mouth to mouth, but that in the interests of hygiene the previously lip-gripped section was broken off and thrown away.
There is no documentary support for that notion, but it is known that used pipes were placed in iron cradles and heat cleansed in bake ovens before being issued to the next round of smokers.
Unfortunately, it does not follow that tiny pipe bowls fit for fairies are necessarily older than others that are larger.
The smallest yet found in Virginia were discovered in a context of 1622 beside the River James at Martin's Hundred, near Williamsburg.
Interest in the history of the evolution of the clay pipe's bowl, however, goes back a deal further and was the subject of scholarly interest as early as 1863.
In that year a clergyman named Hume, no relation to me, began an essay on the topic by saying that "very small pipes are found all over these islands, which are known in Ireland as Fairy pipes or Danes' pipes." The pragmatic cleric was quick to add that "the Irish attribute any thing unusually small to the fairies, and anything very ancient or inexplicable to the Danes." Nevertheless, it was true that the most ancient of pipes were, indeed, very small. Conventional wisdom - at least that to be found in the pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica - credits the introduction of the tobacco pipe to Europe to "Ralph Lane, first governor of Virginia, who in 1586 brought an Indian pipe to Sir Walter Raleigh and taught the courtier how to use it." The Reverend Hume thought so, too, asserting that the use of American tobacco began in England around 1585.
The authors conclude that it is highly likely that these pipes were manufactured and distributed within a colonial market system.
These insights also led to the creation and preliminary evaluation of a mean dating formula based on a temporal linear regression of the pipe data from excavations at Jamestown Island and its hinterland.
Among them was Sir Walter Ralegh's protege, Thomas Harriot, who on his return to England, wrote: We ourselves during the time were there used to suck it after their maner, as also since our returne, & have found maine rare and wonderful experiments of the vertues thereof ..use of it by so maine of late, men & women of great calling as else, and some learned Phisitions also, is sufficient witnes.