Ivory opium pipe, Chinese, 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Pipe with metal mount and pottery bowl, engraved with elaborate pictures of men, women and trees. Opium is the dried extract of the unripe seed capsules of the opium poppy, which contains several narcotic alkaloids, including morphine. It was used by many ancient cultures such as the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for its properties of relieving pain, inducing sleep and promoting psychological effects of peace and well-being. Dimensions: stem length 493 mm; diameter 22 mm.