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Lot 100, Auction 8/3/2017: Prehistoric Native American Woodlands Stone Pipe, Bird

North America, east-central Tennessee (Overton County), Middle Woodland period, ca. 200 to 1000 CE. A gorgeous black stone platform pipe in the form of a song bird with a bowl on its back, the avian creature with carefully delineated incised details including wings, tail feathers, an expressive face with wide-open round eyes delineated with concentric circles to define pupils, and a pointy beak. Platform pipes exemplify aesthetically and iconographically rich smoking technology during the Middle Woodland period. Size: 6" W x 2.5" H (15.2 cm x 6.4 cm)

This type of pipe is a rare effigy form, which often featured animal figures, birds like this probably the most popular. Smoking pipes 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 to tobacco, and often prior to it, 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 apparently had a strong religious component as well, and various archaeological sites from the period, including the Hopewell Mound sites, have contained 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. The Woodland people depicted a variety of birds that are still common today, including song birds, birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles, and waterfowl.

Condition: A few chips to rim of bowl. Minor surface wear with nicks and scratches here and there. Brown areas of neck and bowl are natural inclusions to the stone.

Provenance: private Parker collection, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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