Image: The pipe mouthpiece. (Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority).

A centuries-old mouthpiece of a pipe, which might have been used to smoke hashish, has been unearthed in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Bearing the Arabic inscription "love is language for the lovers," (literally translated, it reads "heart is language for the lover") the clay pipe was likely intended as a gift between lovers.

According to Shahar Puni, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the object dates from the 16th to the 19th century, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state that stretched from southeastern Europe, across northern Africa and through most of the Middle East.

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"Clay pipes of this kind were very common in the Ottoman period, and were mostly used for smoking tobacco, and some were even used to smoke hashish," Puni said in a statement.

"The Ottoman authorities tried to combat this practice but failed when it became clear that smoking was firmly entrenched in all levels of society," Puni said.

Smoking was popular amongst both men and women, and was often done in cafes and in groups of friends.

Indeed, 19th century drawings show Jerusalemite women smoking clay pipes similar to the one unearthed in the Jewish Quarter.

"Pipes were also used as a piece of jewelry that could be worn on a garment," Puni said.