The oldest water pipe known to historians is around 2,400 years old. These relics were made entirely of solid gold, and used exclusively by Scythian tribal chiefs, who prevailed over territory that eventually became modern-day Russia. That’s right – there’s a solid gold bong predating the invention of the wheelbarrow.
Anthropologists believe that bongs were first popularized in the African and Asian regions of the world, though there’s still some debate as to which region first sparked its mainstream popularity. Regardless, in both groups, bong use ultimately spread like wildfire. Excavating Ethiopian caves unearthed one of the first known forms, which is believed to date back nearly a millennium, in the range of 1100 to 1400 CE. Trace quantities of cannabis residue were detected in some of these, indicating that early inhabitants of Africa may have been the first to use bongs the way that most of us do today.
Water pipes are similar to hookah pipes, in both design and intended function, though bongs are more easily transported and simplistic in design. The hookah originated and was popularized in China during the Ming Dynasty, leading many to believe that this era of Chinese culture was the first to popularize bong use. In fact, the word “bong” arose from the Thai word “buang,” a variation of a term for a traditional smoking pipe of that era and region. Buangs, which were generally crafted from bamboo, were typically used to imbibe hashish or tobacco. Trading by merchants along the 16th century Silk Road allowed for the popularization of bongs. By the subsequent Qing Dynasty (lasting from 1644 to 1912), bongs were the prevailing preference for tobacco consumption in Chinese culture.
While most bongs today are made with glass or silicon, that wasn’t always the case. Past eras saw bongs made of an extensive variety of materials, including bamboo, metals, pottery, and animal horn. Jamaicans once made bongs with coconuts, and early Africans hollowed out gourds. For centuries, our ancestors had to work much harder than we’ll ever need to these days, with beautiful and expertly-crafted pieces available for immediate sale at the nearest 710pipes smoke shop in Northglenn and Denver. Earlier eras didn’t have head shops, of course, and had to do their best to make workable instruments of their own. As the saying goes, work with what you’ve got, and smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. Thankfully, our options and expertise have expanded infinitely, and the experience of bong use has clearly improved in kind.
From JUULs and other vaporizors, to topicals and pipes, today’s options for adults to inhale their favorite herb are nearly limitless. However, with over two millenniums of documented history, bongs have established themselves as a truly timeless classic. A major reason that present day bong-lovers cite for their favoritism is because of the way the bong cleans smoke before its inhaled, by drawing it through water. This removes ash and carcinogens, and reduces the smoke’s temperature, enabling a smoother, cooler hit than many other traditional methods allow.
Give New Pieces a Chance
The surge in the innovation and variety of bongs arose largely from one leader amongst men, Bob Snodgrass. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Snodgrass followed The Grateful Dead on tour, and sold an expansive collection of innovative products to grateful hippies across America. Snodgrass’s techniques and creativity in bong and pipe design forever rocked the industry, notably diversifying the types of glassware available and inspiring a wave of glassblowers to follow suit. He eventually settled down in Eugene, Oregon in 1993. One inspired fan, Cameron Tower, did the same in hopes of learning the ins and outs of glassblowing. Tower has since been credited with inventing the first modern bong known to man. While Snodgrass’s techniques paved the way, he was dissatisfied with the bulky construction that impacted his products’ effectiveness and portability, as well as the feasibility of thorough cleaning. Snodgrass’s version featured a removable down stem and removable bowl, allowing hits to pass through water as they do in today’s prevailing models. Tower surprised Snodgrass with his arrival, and with the help of a few other artists, smoothed out the remaining kinks. The new-and-improved design featured a bubble at the bong’s base with a vertical tube rising upward from it. Unlike Snodgrass’s earlier model, Tower’s version had a bowl and down-stem fused into the bubble base. Tower’s adaptations significantly increased the sturdiness of the bong, as well as its feasibility for thorough cleaning, while upholding the prior design’s water filtration for that smooth hit Snodgrass’s fans sought out.
The combined efforts of Snodgrass, Tower, and other 20th-century visionaries allowed within a few short decades for bongs to improve beyond our ancestors’ wildest dreams. In their two thousand years of history, bongs from today’s pipe shops are more portable, smooth, and hygienic than ever before. To see for yourself, stop by 710Pipes in Northglenn or at either of our Denver locations. We’ll see you there!