Stone Pipes

Engraved bird design on stone pipe

Stone Pipes

Stone pipes are found throughout all parts of Oklahoma although they are not common artifacts. They appear most frequently on sites which date after the appearance of agriculture and pottery with most of the recorded specimens being associated either with the Caddoan or Plains Village occupations. The earliest appearance of stone pipes in Oklahoma remains uncertain at the present time.

Stone pipes appear in a great variety of forms including self-stemmed pipes, elbow-shaped pipes which require a separate reed or cane stem, effigy pipes representing various animals or human figures, and rare unique pipes such as the double-bowled pipes found at Spiro, Oklahoma. The effigy forms and other unique styles of pipes are not included here. Only the more common types found in the state are described and illustrated here.

Stone pipes were made by a grinding and polishing process. The initial roughing out of the pipe was done with a pecking hammer to minimize the amount of grinding that would be necessary. This pipe preform was then ground and polished to the final form at which time the bowl and stem hole were completed. Some unfinished specimens indicate that the perforations were sometimes started before the final finishing stage of the pipe, apparently to avoid labor loss in case of difficulties in making the bowl and stem holes. The preparation of the pipe bowl and the drilling of the stem section frequently created difficulties, especially in long stemmed forms. Examples are available in which the drill hole went to one side and broke through the side


of the stem; also there are pipe bowls with holes in the sides from either errors in hollowing out the bowl or in the grinding down of the outside bowl surface. The larger pipe bowls were drilled with a cane using sand and water as an abrasive. This produces an even bore but leaves a small core in the center which must be broken off to complete the bowl. The stems were usually drilled with a flint drill although other techniques must have been used as some pipe stems from Spiro have lengths as great as 250 mm.

Various stones were used for making pipes; these include sandstone, limestone, siltstone, red shale, pipestone, steatite, and other materials.

The specimen illustrated in Figure 27a represents an example of the T-shaped pipe from Caddoan times, a pipe form especially characteristic of the Arkansas river valley area. Figure 27b is a variation of this type with a more flattened base and a different shaped bowl profile. This specimen has a shortened stem projection as it has been broken, but was smoothed over and modified for continued usage. The two specimens shown in Figures 27d-e are typical elbow pipes from the Plains Villages of central and western Oklahoma. Some examples have the stem at a right angle to the bowl and are less V-shaped in outline; the expanded bowl with the flaring lip is quite typical. The specimen shown in Figure 27f is sometimes termed a Wichita pipe but this identification requires further documentation. This pipe form is typical of the late Caddoan Fort Coffee phase occupations in eastern Oklahoma.


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