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Smoking in the Pacific Northwest Dates Back at Least 1,200 Years

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nicotiana quadrivalvusPULLMAN, WASHINGTON—Archaeologist Shannon Tushingham and chemist David Gang of Washington State University detected nicotine residues on fragments of ancient pipes from the Pacific Northwest using mass spectrometry, according to a Jefferson Public Radio report. Tushingham said she had suspected the tests would reveal traces of bearberry in the pipes, which were recovered from three Nez Perce archaeological sites along the Snake River and are now held in museum collections, since it had been previously thought that tobacco was introduced to the region by European explorers. Tushingham suggests that Nicotiana quadrivalvus, also known as Indian tobacco, may have been cultivated by the Nez Perce, since it does not grow naturally so far north. The researchers explained that the locally produced tobacco was less potent than the dried tobacco later carried to the region by European explorers, and was therefore quickly replaced. To read about an archaeological project involving collection of cigarette butts to determine how they reflect social identity, go to “Where There's Smoke...

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