Smoking and Ritual in Prehistoric North America

Tune in tonight at 6pm EST on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel!

European travelers from as early as the time of Columbus have remarked upon the central role tobacco played in the lives of the Native Americans they encountered.  Far more than a leisure activity, the smoking of tobacco played a large role in Native American spiritual and ritual life.  What are the practice’s prehistoric origins, and how do we know?  SUNY Albany’s Sean M. Rafferty specializes in residue analysis, a technique that uses chemicals to extract and identify traces of plant and animal materials from pottery.  Join us tonight to learn about these fascinating methods and discover the earliest evidence of pipe smoking technology, and its social and religious significance to the prehistoric inhabitants of North America.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrained as a specialist in the archaeology of prehistoric Eastern North America, Sean Rafferty has conducted excavations throughout New York State on a variety of archaeological sites and conducted substantial laboratory research, using techniques from chemistry and physics, to understand the function of ancient artifacts. Rafferty received his bachelor’s in anthropology from Hartwick College (1990), and his master’s (1994) and doctorate (2001) in anthropology from Binghamton University. He joined UAlbany as an assistant professor of anthropology in 2002. Within the region of Eastern North America, he is particularly interested in the interplay between ritual practices and cultural variability, especially within the area of mortuary practices and smoking rituals.  He has research interests in the field of archaeometry, with a specialty in residue analysis using chromotographic approaches.  These research interests coincide with his ongoing investigation into the origins of tobacco smoking in the Eastern Woodlands of North America. Together with Robb Mann, Sean is the editor of Smoking and Culture.

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