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Report on the 14th Meeting
of the Arbeitskreis zur Erforschung der Tonpfeifen held in Liestal, Switzerland on 1-3 June 2000


Ralf Kluttig-Altmann

The Arbeitskreis zur Erforschung der Tonpfeifen (German Society for Clay-Pipe Research) held its 14th Meeting at Liestal near Basel on 1-3 June 2000 at the kind invitation of the Kantonsarchäologie und Kantonsmuseum Baselland Liestal, represented by Michael Schmaedecke. There were sixteen participants at the Meeting. They came from various parts of Germany and a few from Holland and Switzerland. The chief reason for holding the Meeting at a venue outside Germany was to integrate those people in Austria and Switzerland who were interested in clay pipes more closely in clay-pipe research in the German-speaking part of Europe. Regrettably this initiative did not meet with as much success as was hoped.

As an introduction to the Baselland region, which is rich in archaeological remains, participants were invited on the day of arrival to visit the remains of AUGUSTA RAURICA in Augst, one of the three towns established by the Romans in what is now Switzerland. Michael Schmaedecke led the party on a guided tour of the museum and the excavated Roman buildings and gave an account of the rich finds and discoveries made there. This visit was followed by a guided tour of the town - participants were to discover in a paper given on the next day that there was more connection between provincial Roman history and clay pipes than one would at first imagine. In the evening the participants met for evening dinner, which traditionally presented an ideal opportunity for making and renewing contacts, examining and discussing clay-pipe finds, and exchanging information.

Martin Kügler, as chairman of the Meeting, began the program of lectures on the first full day of business by welcoming the participants and thanked Jürg Tauber, who represented the Kantonsarchäologie and Kantonsmuseum Baselland Liestal, for the kind invitation to Liestal. M. Kügler stressed the efforts of the Society to treat clay-pipe research as a cross-border activity, since clay pipes are a pan-European phenomenon and are not confined by today's national boundaries. Next, J. Tauber welcomed the visitors and briefly discussed the status of the clay pipe in comparison with other relatively modern material found in excavations. Finally, M. Schmaedecke, who organised the Meeting and is on the staff of the Canton Archaeological Section, welcomed the participants and gave a short historical review of the town of Liestal and the surrounding region.

The first paper, also by M. Schmaedecke, on "Clay-pipe smoking in Switzerland, particularly in NW Switzerland", reported on the most important facts that had become known through recent research in Switzerland. Although the oldest Swiss painting of a pipe smoker is dated around 1620, the oldest clay pipes that have been found are around 1650. It was clear from Schmaedecke's paper that clay-pipe research is much more advanced in some parts of Switzerland than in others; this is clearly reflected in the results. So far only in NW Switzerland have clay pipes been given the attention they deserve and have been evaluated. Thus, only when clay pipes are recognised as worth recovering from excavations and when they have been documented throughout Switzerland shall we be able to obtain a much more detailed picture of clay-pipe smoking over the whole county. Up to now we can only infer that the picture is roughly the same as that in SW Germany. It appears that no pipes were produced in Switzerland and clay pipes had to be imported, depending on the political and economic climate, at first (17th century) from Holland and then Mannheim and Frankenthal, and later (18th century) chiefly from Westerwald. In the 19th century, pipes from the French firm of Gambier played an important role, and also stub-stemmed pipes like those from SE Europe.

Logically, the next paper on was on "Finds of Gambier pipes in and around Liestal" by Kurt Rudin, Seltisberg, Switzerland, an enthusiastic local researcher from the Baselland Canton. Kurt Rudin had made a study of the clay-pipe fragments that he had found with other "modern" archaeological objects in fields and in the countryside. He displayed several items from his many finds to demonstrate a series of simple variants of Gambier pipes. In some cases it was possible to correlate the latest pipe finds with historically documented people who lived in Liestal and Seltisberg in the early 20th century.

Maren Weidner, Kiel, gave a paper, not on new finds, but on pipe fragments from two collections, those of B. Behrmann and H.-W. and K. Alert. The pipes were found in dredged harbour mud in settling basins in the vicinity of Hamburg. The pipes, as with most found near the sea coast, are a true international mixture as far as provenance in concerned. The mixture even contains so-called "vivat" pipes from the 18th century inscribed with a variety of places such as Brandenburg, Sweden, Denmark and Brunswick, 18th century Gouda pipes and local imitations (often very difficult to distinguish), and 19th century portrait pipes from Great Britain and the Netherlands. Examples of "Wilson" pipes from Glasgow might also be imitations or pirated designs.

Rüdiger Articus, Hamburg, presented a paper on "There have always been pipes", in which he dealt with the connection between ancient history and clay pipes, as was mentioned in the introduction to this report. He explained how, in the past, clay pipes found in excavations of prehistoric or ancient sites were often attributed to ancient cultures. From the 1820s onwards, clay pipes repeatedly turned up in excavations of Celtic and Roman sites, mostly in south Germany, and, since the typical shapes of the 17th century clay pipes had mostly been forgotten, they were attributed to the ancient cultures. The resulting academic disputes, which today make amusing reading, demonstrate two important things. Firstly, that an archaeologist has always had a certain amount of freedom of interpretation, with the help of which he can "promote" his own research results. In this context, several examples of clay pipes being found in urns were used as evidence for the above theories. Secondly, the current national feeling in the 19th century used to exert a considerable influence on how history was interpreted. For example, the idea that a cultural achievement with as broad a popularity as tobacco smoking was acquired from the "savages" of America was utterly unacceptable to the academic community in Germany and central Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries - a truly European origin must be found, preferably a very ancient origin! Although this subjective kind of thinking was abandoned by the middle of the 20th century, one still finds the old ideas turning up, even today, in exhibitions, lexica, and other publications. In this connection, metal pipes, which have occasionally been found in the 19th and 20th centuries, still pose an unsolved problem, although they are possibly metal imitations of Dutch clay pipes.

Ruud Stam, Leiden, Holland, in his paper on "Pipes and politics. The significance of the political pipe in the 19th century", gave a summary of another aspect of the clay pipe. He explained what a wide range of possibilities there were during the entire period in which clay pipes were smoked in the 17th-20th centuries of publicising one's political affinity by means of relevant designs (see his article on "Clay pipes and politics" in KnasterKOPF Vol. 14, 2001, pp.49-53).

This being the last lecture in the first day's program, participants were free to examine and discuss specimens of clay pipes that they had brought with them. After lunch, M. Schmaedecke led a tour of the most interesting sights to illustrate his talk of the previous day on the history of the town from ancient to more recent times, when, in 1833, Liestal became the canton capital. In the late afternoon M. Schmaedecke led the participants round the Baselland Canton Museum, which not only hosted the meeting but also kindly invited the participants to a short reception in the museum after the tour. Later, the most recent documentary films on clay-pipe production "Clay-pipe production in Westerwald" and "Production of clay "straws" as shooting targets at fairs, and clay eggs". M. Kügler, who was responsible for the film texts when they were made, introduced and commented on the films.

The morning of the next day was occupied not with reporting recent finds, but with methods of studying clay pipes. The first speaker was Ralf Kluttig-Altmann, who gave a paper entitled "On a systematic typology of rolled-on stem decorations". Ralf Kluttig-Altmann presented the results of a working group that was concerned with this topic. The results were based on his original ideas on systematic classification, which he explained during last year's meeting of the study group on "Typology of stem decorations on clay pipes" on 25-26 Feb. 2000 in Görlitz (Report of the meeting in KnasterKOPF Vol. 13, 2000, pp. 7-10). R. Kluttig-Altmann, together with M. Kügler, R. Articus, Inken Jensen, Karl-Walter Beinhauer, Eva Roth-Heege and Andreas Heege developed the basic structure of a typology, which would be able to incorporate the vast variety of manually impressed stem decorations primarily according to methodological criteria, as well as an agreed terminology for the individual elements or components of the decoration (ornamental band or stamp) and the individual types (or patterns) of decoration identified. The aim of the typology is to replace the current purely verbal description of the manual stem decorations, which is from various points of view unsatisfactory, by a formal system using type numbers. Not only would this facilitate evaluation of clay-pipe suites but also the higher degree of accuracy and documentation of details would enable one to achieve a better chronological and regional classification of the material than is possible at present. The discussion at the end of the session provided an opportunity for suggestions as to how the typology could be improved, and to ask questions.

M. Schmaedecke gave an account of a draft typology of the other main group of stem decorations, i.e. those engraved in the pipe mould. He chose to deal with "floral decorations", a major group of the engraved stem-decorations. The floral decorations are first subdivided on the basis of the most frequent motifs into three main groups, and then into several variants. This proposal for a typology of stem decorations stimulated a lively discussion. Certain unavoidable disadvantages were seen to exist, namely, that the choice of the main groups of the floral decorations was somewhat subjective, the decorations on the pipe bowl, which often belongs to a highly decorated pipe on which the bowl decoration gradually passes into the stem decoration, and the difficulties of attributing small fragments of pipe to a definite subdivision of the typology.

M. Kügler, Görlitz, in the last paper, reported on the export of Westerwald clay pipes to Switzerland. This export trade attained increasing importance at the beginning of the 19th century after Westerwald was suddenly forced to abandon the northern markets. Later, as political and economic conditions changed, it lost in importance again. It is not clear from the documentary evidence which actual pipe models were exported to Switzerland, apart from the "Napoleon" pipe. In the second part of his lecture Martin Kügler reported on a remarkable find from Heidelberg. Material excavated from a rubble-filled cellar contained fragments of moulds whose owner is known, and one half of a mould for a pipe bowl displaying a rim-decoration that has never been met with before. The rubble can be reliably dated as between 1619 and 1620. The mould can only have been intended to make a solid (not hollow) pipe bowl, which might have been used to mount on a sculpture or model figure of some kind. At the same time the occurrence of such an object in Heidelberg around 1620 documents that clay pipes were known there at that time - this is in fact the earliest material evidence of smoking and the existence of clay pipes in Germany so far.

M. Kügler, as chairman of the meeting, made several announcements on new developments, the study group, and the Society publications. The existence of the periodical KnasterKOPF is not threatened financially, thanks to the support of its promoter, the Hamburger Museum für Archäologie - Helms Museum. It can also look with confidence into the future as far as its scientific quality is concerned, since there is quite sufficient publishable material available. The editorship has been taken over by M. Kügler and R. Kluttig-Altmann. In order to publicise the contents of KnasterKOPF, the abstracts of all papers in KnasterKOPF can be seen at any time by visiting our Web Site at http://knasterkopf.de. The next meeting has been fixed for 27-30 April 2001 in Grefrath, thanks to the kind invitation of Heinz-Peter Mielke, Grefrath. M. Kügler thanked the Basselland Canton Museum at Liestal on behalf of all the participants for accommodating the Meeting. Thanks were due in particular to M. Schmaedecke, whose excellent planning and organisation, both before and during the Meeting, made it a most informative and enjoyable event.

The Meeting was rounded off with an excursion to Basel. M. Schmaedecke gave an account of the history of the city from the Münsterberg, and Felicia Schmaedecke showed us the Münster (Basel Minster) itself. Next, the participants visited an exhibition in Basel Museum entitled "Strong Tobacco. A wonder weed conquers the world". The participants attended a final evening get-together in Liestal and wished one another "Auf Wiedersehen" next year in Grefrath.



last update: 05/05/18
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