This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Clay and Stone Pipes: What is so Interesting About That?
About a week ago while wet screening
I came across a stone that was about 2cm-3cm long and about 1cm-2cm wide with
three vertical lines running on it and one horizontal line. I asked one of the
staff members why this rock would have these lines and he said that it wasn’t
just a rock but actually a part to a stone pipe. This was not the first part of
a pipe we have found in our unit but it was the first part of a stone pipe we
found so far. At Fort St. Joseph we have come cross two different kinds of
tobacco pipes- the first being clay pipes and the second being stone, both of
which have a very interesting history.
Clay bowl fragment on left and stone bowl fragment on right
pipes were first made in Britain during the late 1500s and the people who
bought these pipes were usually wealthy because it was at a time when tobacco
prices were considerably high. But once tobacco prices dropped due to the
colonization of America and the increase in tobacco exportation, smoking became
a common recreational activity around the mid 1600s.
smoking between natives and French traders strengthened a cross-cultural
exchange between these two groups. Tobacco smoking became a common practice in
the fur trade especially when interacting with Natives. If you did not know
already, there was a large Native American settlement across the river from
Fort St. Joseph. Smoking rituals facilitated trust and, in many instances made
possible, the exchange of goods with Natives.
Why are tobacco pipes so important
to archaeologists, do you ask? Well, for starters, you are able to date a site
bymeasuring the bore diameter. A bore
is a hole that goes through the stem and connects to the bowl so that the user
could draw in smoke. As time goes on the bores got smaller, so smaller bores
are more recent, theoretically.
Two white clay pipe stems
if we are lucky we may find marked pipes.Some pipe maker’s actually left their initials on the pipe stem or bowl.
With these marks we can more accurately date a site and see where these pipes
were being manufactured.
interesting that I came across was, that in the Great Lakes region during the
1700s stone pipes were more popular then clay pipes. These pipes were called
Micmac pipes and were named after the people who made them. Micmac pipes looked
a little different than most clay pipes, they had a separate reed stem, and
sometimes a hole in the base to permit a tie attachment to the stem. They also
had an area where they could attach feathers or decoration.However, if during the 1700s stone pipes were
more popular why haven’t we found more of them at the fort site than clay ones?
(Just a thought) The process in making pipes out of stone took some patience
and required specific tools like metal saws, brills and files.
all we have seen quite a lot of clay pipes at the Fort site, which suggests
that they were importing pipes from the Old World and using them themselves
and/or trading them with local Native groups in the area. These clay pipes are
one way we are able to help date the site. Also the stone pipes are just one
artifact that shows the interaction that was going on between natives and
European inhabitants of the fort (they had to learn how to make these stone
pipes or trade with the Native for them). The ongoing archaeology will keep
helping us provide a vivid picture of what was going on at Fort St. Joseph.
1. Rafferty Sean M. and Man Rob,
ed., The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in
Eastern North America Smoking and
Culture, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004.
2. Encyclopedia of Historical Archeology, “Clay Pipes,” 252.