This smoking pipe, made from Minnesota pipestone, is from Indiana and likely dates to the protohistoric period.
The pipe in this model was made from red Minnesota pipestone, also referred to as ‘Catlinite’ after the traveler and writer George Catlin who visited the quarry in 1835. The pipestone quarry is referred to as Cannomok’e in the language of the local First Nations owners, the Eastern Dakota people. Minnesota pipestone is a type of metamorphosed mudstone called ‘argillite’. The stone does not flake but is relatively soft and excellent for carving. It continues to be fashioned by First Nations people into ceremonial pipes. The elbow style of this pipe, and the small hole drilled to help affix a wood stem, suggest that it dates to the protohistoric period. The small hole was made with a stone drill and the irregular size of the bore hole suggests it was also made with a stone tool. Both sides of the pipe are engraved with a simple geometrical motif which may represent a deer or other animal.
Tobacco is a North American plant that was domesticated by ca. 3400 BP in Mexico. First Nations people were the first to smoke the plant and the practice was taken to Europe by returning Spanish invaders. The term either derived by the Taíno word ‘tabago’, referring to the tobacco pipe (the leaves were called ‘cohiba’), or the Arabic word for herbs, ‘ṭubbāq’. A bone pipe excavated from Mummy Cave in Wyoming dated to ca. 4420 BP and stone pipes are known from the Western Idaho Archaic Burial Complex dating to about the same period. The earliest documented tobacco pipe in eastern North America was excavated from the famous Eva site in Tennessee (now submerged under Kentucky Lake). This tubular pipe dates to the Late Archaic period, ca. 4000 BP. Tubular pipes were drilled-out cylinders of stone, wider at one end for inserting the tobacco, and narrower at the other end which served as the mouthpiece. Tubular pipes have been found with a small stone wedged in them, presumably to block the burning tobacco leaves from entering the mouth. Tubular pipes proliferated in the Late Archaic through the Early Woodland and Middle Woodland periods, ca. 1800-3000 BP. They were made of stones of various types, or pottery.
Pipes became more elaborated in the Middle Woodland period, ca. 1500-2200 BP. ’Platform’ pipes emerged at this time, composed of a flat or curved base supporting a cylindrical bowl in the centre. The pipes were often plain but were sometimes decorated with an animal effigy. Birds were particularly common, but 27 different general of animals were represented on 80 effigy pipes from the Tremper Mound in Ohio. Platform pipes, and the stone for making them, was traded extensively as part of the Hopewell Interaction Sphere. Elbow pipes became more popular during the Late Woodland period. The earliest elbow pipes were made with an obliquely angled blow, with right-angled elbow pipes gaining in popularity later in the period. The shapes of the bowls changed in style through time. By the Mississippian period, large figurines and effigies doubled as smoking pipes, and many were carved with Southeastern Ceremonial Complex motifs.
Pipes are of particular interest to archaeologists because they are not utilitarian objects, unlike most stone tools. As such, they lend themselves for researching a host of issues about past symbolism and religious practice. In modern First Nations cultures, tobacco continues to be culturally important. Tobacco figures prominently in origin stories, and the pipe ceremony is a participatory ritual that references some of these shared stories and beliefs.