Bong. Bubbler. Piece. Steamroller. Rig. Rig. The latest innovations in smoking have provided new and exciting ways to consume cannabis. However, it’s worth noting that the history behind the glass pipes could prove even more fascinating.
THE BIRTH OF GLASS
Because glass has been around for many centuries, it is no surprise that our ancestors found clever ways to get their smoke out. The American Scientific Glassblowers Society states that the Egyptians used glass to make beads, glaze tiles and make figures. Excavations suggest that it was used for the first time in 1500 BC. Later, the art of glassblowing became popular and led to the creation of the ganja gear.
THE FIRST WATER PIPES
Contrary to popular belief, bongs and pipes were invented long before the rise of hippies and their groovy, weed-loving counterculture. Some of the oldest bongs known exist pre-date American history. They were used in ancient Africa and Russia, as well as China.
The origin of the original bong is still a matter of debate, due to varying data and limited research. However, new discoveries offer a closer look at the first cannabis creations.
Science Advances published Meng Ren of China’s Academy of Sciences and her team of researchers in June 2019. They found that 10 wooden-burning pots or “braziers” were used for ritualized cannabis smoking. 500 BCE in the eastern Pamirs. This means that cannabis was used in China at least 2,500 years ago.
Further testing revealed that the relics contained CBN, which is a cannabinoid that forms when THC age or is exposed to extreme environmental factors such as heat.
In 2013, archaeologists discovered two bongs made of pure gold in south Russia that were 2400 years old prior to Ren’s discovery. According to Tech Times, the “historic paraphernalia” was used by tribal chiefs of the Scythians are nomadic tribes that originated in southern Siberia, and spread their influence throughout Central Asia. They used cannabis and opium to smoke. was the first known water pipe, a group of 11 pipes found in an Ethiopian cave. They were discovered around 1400 CE.
In 16th-Century China it was discovered that the Ming Dynasty’s ruling class used water pipes to smoke tobacco. According to Leafbuyer, bongs became a status symbol during the Qing Dynasty. While common people used homemade bamboo bongs, the elites chose extravagantly decorated bongs.
Henry Balfour, an archaeologist, reported in 1922 on the “earth pipes” that Africans used to mimic water pipes. He also described how they smoked tobacco and hemp while holding water in one’s mouth. His paper, “Earth Smoking Pipes from South Africa & Central Asia”, includes drawings of the devices and diagrams of their use.
Glassware flourished thanks to the innovative ideas of China and our waterpipe-savvy ancestors. The 1940s was the first time that bongs, weed-ware and other weed-ware were popular in the United States. In the McFarland Thai English Dictionary, the word “bong”, however, was not added until then. The Marijuana Review published “bong” in 1971. It referred to “smoking Kancha, tree, hashish or the hemp-plant.” Bongs and hand-held water pipes were popular ways to consume cannabis in the U.S.
THE BONG RENAISSANCE
Along with the boom in bongs and the rise of the “hippie” movement, head shops and smoke shops sprung up all over San Francisco. They sold glassware and pot-painted smoking products and lined every shelf. The bong movement was elevated by the addition of artisanal smokeware, which is what traditional glass workers like the American lampworker Bob Snodgrass have done.
There is a wide range of glass and smokeware available today, and it’s hard to predict where the marijuana industry will lead us. You can choose from a traditional bong or a discreet handpipe, a trippy bubbler, or an impressive rig. We should thank our forefathers and the centuries of smoking enthusiasts who helped to create the next generation of smokeware.