Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies


James Tharp Edited by, John Chapin

Central States Archaeological Societies 2003 Winter Journal

Plainfield, Indiana Danville, Indiana

One day in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Earl Waggoner was hauling gravel just southwest of New Castle, Indiana. In those days, natural sand or gravel ridges, today known as glacial kames, were utilized as easy sources for concrete aggregate, road fill, and other construction needs. Men shoveled the gravel into wagons pulled by teams of horses. While loading one of these wagons, this pipe rolled out of the gravel ridge. No mention was made of any other artifacts being recovered. And what did Mr. Waggoner do with this pipe? He used it as a doorstop for years until, after many unsuccessful attempts, the present owner was able to persuade Mr. Waggoner to part with it.

During the early part of the last century, when archaeology was still in its infancy, not only was collecting and studying prehistoric artifacts not important to the general public, little information was available on the subject. Farmers usually had a bucket or wooden box hanging from their horse-drawn plow for collecting smaller field rocks. Artifacts were curiosities that were picked up as they were uncovered and put in the container, eventually winding up in the barn or house. With the advent of the farm tractor, farmers were less likely to stop to pick up the occasional point or artifact.

Upon examination, this pipe shows the careful and skilled work used to create the ornamented design and likenesses to form, somewhat eroded with time. Effigy pipes usually represent natural forms and likeness, although there are examples of extreme types throughout the prehistoric era. Animal likenesses, used during ceremonial worship, were believed to help maintain a balance between spiritual forces and everyday living, including fertility of the land and successful hunting. Life itself depended on maintaining a harmony between the human and spirit worlds. The symbolism expressed in effigy pipes is thought to have helped connect a clan to the gods, with the smoke carrying petitions and prayers as it ascended to the heavens.

Effigy pipes are rare and treasured finds. This bear-effigy pipe has a plain bowl drilled vertically near the lower back, while having been bored horizontally for a fitted stem, probably wood. Note the feet, with notches representing claws and incurvation of the sides, giving, form to the legs and body. The mouth is crafted with an incised line, while the eyes are notched inward on an angle, giving form to the upper and lower cavities within the eye sockets. The ears once protruded but have been lost due to either normal usage or weathering prior to its modern discovery. Other pipe forms include the earliest type with protruding bowl and stem within the same construction. Commonly used materials for crafting pipes included sedimentary stones, various hard stones, and clay. Sheet-rolled copper was used by some cultures to create special pipes known as "panpipes."

To date, very little has been written concerning glacial kames as natural formations with important connections to archaeological studies. During the Depression, the WPA programs unknowingly obliterated many gravel and sand kames, some possibly containing significant prehistoric sites. The unique discovery of this pipe, had it not been for the persistence of one individual, would have remained unnoticed and undocumented.

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