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The clay tobacco pipe is an exceptional tool for dating archaeological sites from the historic period because it has undergone a series of stylistic changes over its history of production.The importance of these stylistic changes becomes apparent when one considers that the fragile nature and inexpensive cost of clay pipes resulted in their being smoked, broken and discarded all within the period of a year or two.The scale of the marks vary due to differences in size.These pipes originated from either England or the Netherlands, with the exception of one pipe from the Chesapeake region of Virginia.
The idea of smoking tobacco came from the American Indian, who had long fashioned their own clay pipes.
Relief marks form a raised mark on the pipe and were either stamped with a die or incorporated into the pipe mould.
Incuse marks form a negative impression on the pipe and were stamped with a die or applied by a similar device across which the stem was rolled.
Therefore, the most important step in identifying a makers' mark is to first look at the pipe fragment from which it came.
By studying the shape, size and characteristics of the pipe bowl it is possible to determine a date range for that particular fragment, and perhaps its regional origin.