Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
{search_item}
skull

Difficult Lives

 

The Bondservants' Bargain
 
Hard Evidence of Heavy Toil
 
Proof of
Burden

 
Pleasure of a Pipe
 

"Tobacco is the currant Coyn of Mary-Land, and will sooner purchase Commodities from the Merchant, then money." — George Alsop, 1666


 
Skull of a male, 25 to 29 years old, with heavily worn pipe facets
 
Skull of a male, 25 to 29 years oldImage courtesy of: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Many activities can affect the skeleton, if repeated again and again. The wear and tear of growing tobacco bent the backs of colonists, while the habit of smoking tobacco in clay pipes damaged and stained their teeth. As they clenched the pipe between their teeth, the abrasive clay of the pipe stem wore facets in the enamel of the teeth around the pipe. Eventually these facets left holes in the bite.


 
Skull of a female, 55 to 60 years old, with pipe facets and antemortem tooth loss. ca. 1660-1680, Patuxent Point site, Calvert County, Maryland.
 
Skull of a female, 55 to 60 years old, with pipe facets and antemortem tooth loss. ca. 1660-1680, Patuxent Point site, Calvert County, Maryland.
Images courtesy: Smithsonian Institution

Nearly everyone in the colonial Chesapeake, young and old, men and women, was smoking—a fact that only skeletal evidence could reveal.  Skulls of men, women, and even children from the 17th-Century sites of Patuxent Point show pipe facets, some so deep they caused abscessed teeth.

[ TOP ]