Clay Pipe

Clay Pipes

Ceramic smoking pipes are found in Oklahoma although they are not as common as pipes made of stone. They are found chiefly in the eastern parts of the state associated with Caddoan occupations. They also occur on proto-historic Wichita Indian sites occupied during the l8th century. They are more abundant here, which suggests changes in the associated ritual or smoking habits.

The most common clay pipe found in Oklahoma is the simple elbow-shaped pipe which required the use of a cane or reed stem for smoking. There is much variation in these clay pipes, but the bowl and stem are commonly of about the same size and length. Often it is difficult to know which portion served as the stem and which was the bowl although the stem is normally the shorter section. The bowl is likely to be more conical in form and with thinner walls than the stem section. In addition, the bowl will often show stains and charred residues from smoking similar to the "cake" which accumulates in present day pipes. These pipes are sometimes decorated by incisions, punctates, or sculpturing the clay to add some additional features. Figure 48b illustrates one example in which the elbow area has been decorated by the addition of a clay overlay which has been marked with reed punctates.


Less common are clay pipes in which the stem is an integral part of the pipe. The T-shaped stone pipes in which there was a projection extending beyond the pipe bowl was also made in clay. Another form known as the Red River pipe (Figure 48e) is essentially a long cylindrical tube or stem with the pipe bowl placed toward one end. These pipes are typically very fragile and are usually broken in several pieces when recovered. The tobacco bowls are small in size and exceptionally thin walled. Actually there are two varieties of this Red River pipe, based on the stem diameter. The earlier form has a small sized stem and bowl whereas the later type has a larger diameter stem and bowl size.

The use of tobacco for smoking in various forms such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes was developed by the American Indian long before European contact. Pipe smoking was a ritualistic or ceremonial activity as many early accounts of the "calumet ceremony" will attest. After European contacts, the use of native-made clay pipes was eventually abandoned and replaced by manufactured clay pipes obtained from white traders.


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