A bong is a device that filters smoke through water, usually used for smoking herbs or tobacco. Bongs come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, but they all have a common feature: a bowl where the substance is placed, a stem that connects the bowl to the water chamber, and a mouthpiece where the smoke is inhaled. Bongs are popular among smokers who enjoy the smooth and cool sensation of the water-filtered smoke.
But where did bongs come from? Who invented them and when? How did they evolve over time? These are some of the questions that we will try to answer in this blog post.
The Origins of Bongs
The exact origins of bongs are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Some sources claim that bongs were invented in Africa, where ancient tribes used pottery and animal horns to make water pipes for smoking herbs. According to these sources, archaeologists have found evidence of bongs dating back to 1100-1400 BC in Ethiopia, where 11 bongs made of pottery and animal horns were discovered in a cave.
Other sources suggest that bongs were invented in Asia, where bamboo pipes were used for smoking tobacco and other substances. According to these sources, the word “bong” comes from the Thai word “baung” or “bong”, which means a cylindrical bamboo tube or container. These sources claim that bongs were used by the Hmong people in Laos and Thailand, as well as by other cultures across Asia, for centuries.
However, the oldest known bongs were not made of pottery, animal horns, or bamboo. They were made of solid gold. In 2013, excavations of a kurgan (a burial mound) in Russia revealed that Scythian tribal chiefs used gold vessels to smoke cannabis and opium 2400 years ago. The kurgan was discovered when construction workers were clearing land for a power line. The gold vessels were decorated with intricate designs and had holes for inserting tubes or pipes.
The Spread of Bongs
Bongs spread from Asia to other parts of the world through trade and cultural exchange. One of the routes that facilitated this spread was the Silk Road, a network of ancient trade routes that connected China, India, Persia, Arabia, Europe, and Africa. Along the Silk Road, bongs were introduced to different cultures and adapted to different preferences and materials.
One of the places where bongs became popular was India, where a physician named Hakim Abul Fath invented the water pipe in the 16th century. He discovered tobacco and suggested that its smoke should be passed through a small receptacle of water to make it harmless. His invention was called “hookah” or “huqqa”, which means “pot” or “jar” in Arabic. Hookahs are similar to bongs, but they have one or more hoses attached to the water chamber for multiple users to share.
Another place where bongs became popular was China, where they were introduced during the late Ming Dynasty (16th century) along with tobacco. Bongs became the most preferred method to smoke tobacco in China during the Qing Dynasty (17th-20th century), especially among the nobility and the urbanites. The Empress Dowager Cixi was known to have been fond of bongs and was buried with at least three of them. Bongs in China were made of metal, glass, porcelain, or wood, and often adorned with jewels or carvings.
The Modernization of Bongs
Bongs reached North America through European settlers who brought tobacco and other plants with them. Bongs were not very common in North America until the 1960s and 1970s, when they became associated with the hippie movement and the counterculture. During this time, bongs also underwent a major transformation: they became glass.
The person who is credited with inventing the glass bong is Bob Snodgrass, an American glassblower who pioneered a technique called fuming, which involves vaporizing silver or gold onto glass to create color-changing effects. Snodgrass started making glass pipes and bongs in the 1970s while traveling across the country with his family and selling his creations at Grateful Dead concerts. His glass bongs became popular among smokers who appreciated their artistic design and smooth smoking experience.
Since then, glass bongs have evolved into various shapes, sizes, and styles, incorporating features such as percolators, ice catchers, splash guards, and diffusers. Glass bongs are still the most popular type of bongs today, although other materials such as silicone, acrylic, and ceramic are also used. Bongs are also available online and in specialized shops, where they are sold as water pipes or tobacco accessories.
Bongs are ancient devices that have a long and rich history. They were invented in different parts of the world and spread through trade and cultural exchange. They were adapted to different preferences and materials and became popular among different groups of people. They were modernized by glassblowers and became associated with the hippie movement and the counterculture. They are still widely used today by smokers who enjoy the water-filtered smoke.
So, who invented the bong? There is no definitive answer to that question, as bongs have multiple origins and inventors. But one thing is certain: bongs are a fascinating and diverse phenomenon that reflect the history and culture of smoking.
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