Native American, North America, found in Ashland, Kentucky, Middle Woodland period, ca. 200 to 1000 CE. A relatively soft stone pipe carved with a snake coiled around its cylindrical, hollow body, with the tail of the snake in its mouth, forming what looks like an ouroboros (although that symbol is not associated with this culture). The body of the snake is detailed with carved scales and small drilled eyes; the surface of the pipe has been smoothed. Size: 2.05" W x 2.95" H (5.2 cm x 7.5 cm)
This type of pipe is a rare effigy form, which often featured animal figures. Smoking pipes seem to have played an important role in Eastern Woodland culture, which spanned from sub-Arctic Canada to the southern United States. The earliest evidence we have for the use of tobacco in this area comes from ca. 100 to 200 CE. In addition and prior to tobacco, we know from ethnohistorical accounts that people smoked a variety of other plants, including dogwood, juniper, sumac, and bearberry.
These pipes were not just made for the simple act of smoking; they seem to have had a strong religious component as well, and various archaeological sites from the period, including the Hopewell Mound sites, have the remains of hundreds of destroyed platform pipes, including effigy ones like this. Others were buried with their owners individually. Effigy platform pipes are believed to be totemic animals or spirits from Native cosmology. According to ethnographic sources, the snake was an animal that could live in both this world and the Underworld, and so could act as a messenger between the two worlds.
Provenance: Ex-Przygoda Collection, Mr. Sterling, KY. OLD Collector label stating found in 1897 in Kentucky (Label faded with more exact detail to find).
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