Two pipes unearthed at Indigenous sites in central and southeastern Washington-one relationship to before contact with Europeans, and the other used after their arrival in the 1700s-have revealed the changing smoking habits of Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Washington State University pioneered a process called early residue metabolomics, which has allowed them to extract numerous compounds in the pipes’ insides and surfaces and to identify plants used for smoking.
From the precontactpipethey detected the existence of smooth sumac(Rbus glabra), which physicians likely added to tobacco to improve its flavor and also to make the most of the plant’s medicinal properties. This pipe, that was made of stone, also contains traces of Nicotiana quadrivalvis,a species of tobacco which was once cultivated everywhere by Native tribes. The post-contact pipe, which was made from clay and discarded from the late eighteenth century, consists of a type introduced by Europeans and quickly adopted by Native Americans. The pipe contains Nicotiana rustica,a more potent tobacco species of South American origin which was developed by tribes in the southern United States.Its pres-ence from the pipe helps establish it was co-opted by Europeans to be used in their trade tobacco. “The presence of rustica in the post-contact pipe confirms that indigenous tobacco has been an important trade commodity after contact,”says Washington State University archaeologist Shannon Tushingham. This implies that smoke crops cultivated by Native American people continued to be used alongside tobacco domesticated by Europeans.