Studies of clay pipes represent one of the major fields of research in Post-Medieval archaeology but one that generally remains under-theorised, fetishising and decontextualising a class of artefact due to its prominence in the archaeological record and its suitability for typological dating.
Clay pipe studies can be traced back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but the seminal publication for recent clay pipe studies was Adrian Oswald's Clay Pipes for the Archaeologist (Oswald 1975).
In certain respects this publication highlights the 1970s as marking a defining era for the study of clay pipes.
To consider the functional role of clay pipes, it is necessary to challenge the twin assumptions that clay pipe fragments in the archaeological record automatically represent use-related discard and that clay pipes were used solely for the consumption of tobacco.
By doing this, it is possible to link practice in the present (the study of clay pipes) with meaningful practice in the past (smoking and the consumption of tobacco).
This approach seeks to simultaneously contextualise archaeological clay pipe fragments as part of a larger "tobacco consumption package" and critique the nature of the relationship between clay pipe fragments and tobacco consumption so that the material can play a richer and more relevant role in Post-Medieval archaeology and contribute to wider disciplinary issues.
Although the study of clay pipes is a relatively well developed field within Post-Medieval and Modern artefact studies it can be argued that their archaeological study is relatively under theorised.
There are a number of possible ways forward for more adequately putting them in a theoretical context and this study focuses upon one approach which is essentially that of considering their function.
A number of equally valid alternative approaches exist such as the consideration of the context of production or the role of decoration [ Footnote 1] but these will not be pursued.
To do this adequately, it needs to be recognised that clay pipes form only one element of a larger "tobacco consumption package" and represent only one of a number of alternative modes of tobacco consumption.
Additionally, other archaeological non-artefactual evidence needs to be considered.
It has a body, the Society for Clay Pipe Research plus its associated newsletter, a fledgling journal Clay Pipe Research, a monograph series The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe ( Davey 1979, 1980b, 1981, 1982, 1985a, 1987; Edwards 1988; Tatman 1994 ; Peacey 1996) and a set of guidelines for recording material (Davey 1981a ; see also Webster 1982).