A Brief History of The Bong

A Brief History of The Bong

After the age-old joint, a water pipe or bong is the most common way to smoke cannabis. While most herb aficionados are acquainted with the modern glass, ceramic or grimey (but super functional) homemade bong, it’s not an invention our wonderous modern-day society can take full credit for.

The very first “bong-like” contraption -and the oldest one- was discovered right here in Africa by J.C. Dombrowski. The device was found with cannabis residue on it and was created by placing lit coals underground. With the cannabis placed on the burning coals, the smoke would travel to a mouth tube through an underground duct.

The earliest handheld water pipes also originate from Africa and date back to 1100 and 1400 CE, Ethiopia. Researchers found a total of eleven water pipes inside a cave in Ethiopia that were made using repurposed animal horns and pottery. In Russia, a gold water pipe was discovered during the excavation of a Russian kurgan – providing more evidence that Scythian tribal chiefs smoked cannabis and opium as far back as 2400 years ago.

Gold Water Pipe found in Russia | Image: Artnet

But it was China’s Ming Dynasty through Persia and Silk Road that introduced waterpipes to the world. It soon became the preferred method to consume tobacco by the Qing Dynasty who popularized two types of water pipes – the homemade bamboo pipe used by commoners and bejewelled, metal pipes used by Chinese urbanites, merchants and nobility. The trend quickly spread through Asia and a new name for waterpipes was born – Bong. The word bong comes from the Thai word “bang,” which directly refers to the bamboo waterpipes used across Central Asia in the 16th century.

Eventually, with European settlers in America and as tobacco became a major economic driver, the bong industry grew and became popularized throughout America in the ’60s and ’70s while the glass industry grew simultaneously. Around the same time, an engineer named Bob Snodgrass started designing glass bongs and eventually invented the ‘fuming process’ and used gold and silver to colour borosilicate glass, creating the iconic psychedelic aesthetic that is still popular in bong crafting today.

Bamboo Water Pipe | Image: headshopinsider.com

Modern-day bongs still use the borosilicate glass technique as the standard because of the high heat resistance and non-toxic properties which are lead-free, BPA free, and hypoallergenic. Due to its medical-grade quality, borosilicate glass has also made its way into modern vaporizer designs as smoking continues to evolve even more.

From primitive underground pipes to glass bongs, oils and vapes – ways in which to consume cannabis are plentiful and ever-emerging. The latest evolution of the bong is the dab rig – a new and somewhat misunderstood method of marijuana consumption that involves dabbing wax (concentrated cannabis) on a special rig which is quite similar to a bong.

Bob Snodgrass Style Pipe

Another recent form of weed consumption is vaping. While new studies now show the harmful effects of vapourising oil-based THC products, dry herb vaping is quite safe (as safe as inhaling anything but air can be) and healthier than smoking/burning herb.

With all these new methods of getting baked along with the global movement of legalisation, outlets like South Africa’s new popular online cannabis store Zootly now offers everything you need to explore these modern methods right at your fingertips.

MJ Arsenal Cache Mini Bong – Available on Zootly.co.za

For the OG joint smoker, the exclusive Zootly smoke ranger offers the rolling enthusiast everything from quality hemp blades to stylish spliff tubes and grinders to discreet Zoot cases which hold everything you need to roll and light up.

If you’re like me and swear by the bong then you’ll love their playful Zootly ceramic offer. The signature bong range comes in a variety of colours and are decked out with quirky designs. Also available in the signature Zootly ceramic range are their ceramic pipes – designed for an effortless handheld experience.

Zootly Signature Ceramic Bong | Available at Zootly.co.za

Levelling up here – if that icky-sticky concentrate is what you’re smoking then you’re gonna wanna see this stunning mini glass Dab rig on the Zootly online store. The MJ Arsenal Infinity Mini Rig offers a combination of classic filtration and the more cyclonic filtration of a double uptake recycler, all culminating in an extraordinary consumption experience.

If there’s one new method of smoking weed that’s truly been growing on me is dry vaping. If you’re a bit of purist and seek that robust flavour then dry vaping is for you. Plus, heating your bud is far healthier than smoking it. Check out Zootly’s handheld AirVape XS GO Vaporizer as well as their epic SILVER SURFER tabletop vape on the Zootly online store.

AirVape XS GO DRY BUD Vaporizer | Available at Zootly.co.za

The history of consuming cannabis is vast and the global cannabis community are writing the new history books every day, from vapes to dabbing, shatter and more – I know I’m excited to see what comes next.

Don’t like to inhale? Take a look a Zootly’s delicious edible rangeCBD oils and cannabis skincare.


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