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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Catlinite Bear

July 12, 2018

Catlinite BearThis red pipestone animal effigy closely resembles a bear. Two ears, a stub tail and legs with feet have been carved. The head has a forehead and outlines of the eyes and snout, along with a slit carved for the mouth. A hole drilled through the center of the body has offset tapered openings. Shaving marks are visible beneath the chin and leg appendages and between the ears; they do not appear to have been done with a historic metal file. The body surfaces and back show signs of polish, although the surface has been marred by plow scratches. There are three small parallel lines near the mouth; whether or not they were intentionally carved, perhaps as whiskers, is subject to interpretation. The figure is just over 4 cm long and 2.5 cm tall, and nearly 1 cm thick (1.6 x 1 x 0.4 in). The red pipestone is probably catlinite from southwestern Minnesota but could also be from Barron County quarries in northwestern Wisconsin. The age of this effigy is unknown, but it probably represents late precontact or very early historic manufacture. The drill hole suggests suspension as a pendant, but the hole’s central location would not have kept the effigy level, unless cordage was placed beneath the head and tail. From Wabasha County, Minnesota.