Hunter-gatherer tobacco smoking: earliest evidence from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America

Shannon Tushingham, Dominique Ardura, Jelmer W. Eerkens, Mine Palazoglu, Sevini Shahbaz, Oliver Fiehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Chemical analysis of residue extracted from stone pipes and pipe fragments excavated at sites in the southern Pacific Northwest Coast of North America demonstrate that hunter-gatherers smoked the psychostimulant tobacco (Nicotiana sp.) by at least AD 860. Non-farming ethno-historic Native Americans throughout the west gathered and sometimes cultivated tobacco for ritual and religious purposes, but until now the antiquity of the practice on this part of the continent was unknown. Method validation includes chemical characterization of a suite of smoke plants and experimental reproduction of "smoked" pipe chemistry; results indicate biomarkers are traceable for several species commonly smoked by ethnographic native peoples, including tobacco (nicotine, cotinine), tree tobacco (anabasine), and kinnikinnick (arbutin). Developed methods-where residue is extracted directly from the stone or clay matrix of whole and fragmentary archaeological pipes-may be applied in similar studies investigating the spread and use of ritual smoke plants in the ancient Americas and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2012


  • California
  • GC-MS
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Pacific Northwest Coast
  • Plant management
  • Residue analysis
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History


Dive into the research topics of 'Hunter-gatherer tobacco smoking: earliest evidence from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this