A Concise History of the Bong

            One of the most popular ways to enjoy tobacco products, the all glass bong has been a staple of every smoker's -and headshop's- shelf since the early 1990's. However, the glass water pipe was preceded by different construction methods and materials for a few millenia.



~400 BC Caucasus Mountains, Southern Russia

            Thousands of years ago, a fierce nomadic tribe ruled western and central Eurasia. These nomads, known as Scythians, were written about by the Greek historian Herodotus. The Scythians were a group of Iranian people, as well as Eurasian nomads. Herodotus chronicled their mounted warfare tactics, as well as their ritualistic smoking sessions, using some of the earliest bongs known. In 2013, an archaeologist named Andre Belinski excavated a kurgan (Scythian burial mound), in order to clear way for power lines.


Eventually, he discovered a chamber containing gold jewelry and trinkets, as well as two gold, bucket shaped vessels. Scientists tested black residue they discovered on the inside of the vessels, and found that it contained chemical traces of burned herbs. The vessel itself was found to be over 2400 years old.





~1320 AD Begemeder Province, Ethiopia

            In 1971, an archaeologist named J.C. Dombrowski excavated at the site of Lalibela Cave, located near Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Inside, he found two ceramic pipe bowls that formed part of waterpipes. They possessed an aperture at the bottom of the bowl, allowing for the attachment of a vertical stem that descended into the water chamber. Additionally, they found residue inside both bongs. This residue was taken to a laboratory, and identified to contain samples of combusted ground material.


~1600 AD Ming Dynasty, China

            In the 16th century, the water pipe and tobacco were introduced to China via merchants traveling through Persia and the Silk Road. Mere decades later during the new Qing dynasty, the bong became the most popular way to smoke tobacco. The bong was a particular favorite of Empress Dowager Cixi, who was reportedly buried with three water pipes. Some of her remaining collection can be seen at the Palace Museum located in the Forbidden City, central Beijing, China.







1993 Eugene, Oregon, USA

            A man named Cameron Tower traveled from his hometown in Racine, Wisconsin across the country to Eugene, Oregon in 1993. Eugene was a hotbed of glassblowers, and remains so to this day. Mr. Tower went to Oregon in order to learn how to make glass pipes. This is where he met legendary glass artist Bob Snodgrass. Mr. Snodgrass was actually working on a water pipe, but could not yet find an appropriate design. Mr. Tower ran with the idea, combining all the elements required to form a basic, self-contained water pipe made entirely of glass. Thus, the modern all-glass bong was born.

You can follow Cameron Tower and Bob Snodgrass on Instagram: @c_tower_studios @bobsnodgrass1946

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