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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Pipestone Pipe Bowl – Sanford Archaeological District

September 12, 2019

Pipestone Pipe BowlAn almost complete pipe bowl fragment of deep red pipestone was found during excavations in the early 2000s at the Sanford Archaeological District in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The front of the bowl is intact, as are portions of the sides. The bowl is conical and tapers slightly toward the base, and is likely from a tube or elbow pipe. The exterior is highly polished and has an etched figure of a headless human. The interior of the bowl was fashioned by drilling, and the diameter of the top of the bowl is 1.5 cm (around ½ inch). At the base of the bowl, another drilled hole enters from the back and forms a small pocket in the bottom front of the bowl. This hole probably derives from drilling the stem. The bowl ranges from 4.6 to 6.4 mm thick (approximately 1 ¾ to 2 ½ inches).

The form of this pipe bowl is not typical for Oneota pipes in the La Crosse Locality. In general, Oneota pipes are the impressive disk pipes often portrayed by artists such as George Catlin. The etched human figure is a rare motif in this area and is more unusual than the shape. Few pipes in the La Crosse area are decorated, and those that are usually have little more than horizontal or vertical lines. The etchings on the pipe are fine and precise. The human figure with upraised arms/hands is most often seen in rock art.