Here’s the find!

January 18, 2016 • 2:30 pm

by Matthew Cobb

As many readers noticed, Nicola White’s Thames mudlarking unearthed the bowls of two clay pipes (all rats, joints and jewels were pareidolia):


Nicola tells me these pipes were made in the late 16th and early 17th centuries! (She can tell that by the style.) So they have been sloshing around in the Thames mud for about 400 years before finally ending up, next to each other, on the bank the other day. Think of all the history that has passed by while they lurked in the muddy waters of the Thames, waiting to come back into the light. Furthermore, although they have lost their stems, the bowls are surprisingly intact.

It is relatively easy to find broken bits of pipe stem while mudlarking (I have several examples, just from idle pottering about when the Thames is at low tide), but intact bowls are much rarer.

This site explains the evolution of the Dutch clay pipe down the centuries. These two specimens are clearly of the earliest type.

9 thoughts on “Here’s the find!

  1. “One of these things [was] not like the others.”

    [too] I did find one (top) “pipe”. The prob was I knew only that it wasn’t a rock – not a clue if it qualified as “the find. [/fun]

  2. Locally, we’d call them “Churchwarden Pipes”. But our local style is a bit less bulbous, with a sharper angle between stem and bowl. There is probably both regional and temporal variation, until the advent of mass production in the mid-1800s.

  3. I feel cheated. I’ve lived by the Thames all my life and clay pipes are as common as cigarette butts in the gutter. They’re everywhere. I admit I’m not up on their dating. Not from a photo.

  4. Here’s what the online Merriam-Webster dictionary said when I tried to look up pareidolia:
    “Aren’t you smart – you’ve found a word that is only available in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. To view the full definition of pareidolia, activate your free trial today.”
    Granted, it’s not the most sophisticated of dictionaries, but I thought I’d pass along their compliment to your vocabulary.

  5. I probably considered those, then went on, not knowing what they were or able to tell they were ancient, sigh. Fun pic!

  6. Clearly, this is a find of Dembskian proportions: Imagine the odds that these two exact clay pipes, discarded centuries ago, would wash up just in time for Nicola to find them on her walk at low tide.

    Alert the Disco Institute at once. We have found evidence for the Intelligent Dustman!

  7. And, if that wasn’t cool enough, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the remarkable matrix in which the pipes are embedded. With respect to history, how many cycles of mountain building and erosion do you think are represented?

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