Adena Pipe

From Ohio History Central
Revision as of 14:21, 17 June 2015 by SPagano (Talk | contribs)

OHS Om1289 793634 001.jpg
This wonderful carved pipe was found in the Adena mound in Chillicothe. It shows us an Adena man wearing typical clothing and jewelry.

The Adena Pipe is one of the most remarkable artifacts in the collections of the Ohio History Connection. It is a tubular pipe carved from Ohio pipestone into what archaeologists believe to be an effigy of an ancient American Indian man. William C. Mills, the Curator of Archaelogy at the then-Ohio Historical Society-- discovered the pipe within the Adena Mound at Governor Thomas Worthington's estate, "Adena" (outside Chillicothe) while excavating the site in 1901. Tubular pipes are common in the Adena culture (800 B.C. to A.D. 1). Effigy pipes are highly unusual and the Adena Pipe is virtually unique.

The sculpture reveals what archaeologists believe to be wonderfully detailed indications of typical clothing, hair-style, and ornaments of the Adena culture, which archaeologists might not otherwise be able to ascertain. Some think the carving is so naturalistic that it can be said to represent a dwarf with a goiter. A goiter is a swollen gland in the neck due to a deficiency in the diet. We don't know enough about Adena sculpture, however, to make these claims with confidence. The short legs compared to the body simply may indicate that the artist was less interested in the legs, or the artist may have had difficulties representing bent legs while keeping the proportions accurate.

The decorated loincloth with the feather bustle is particularly interesting. A similar bird fan-tails is shown on the Berlin Tablet, which is a stone tablet engraved with a stylized carving of a bird. In wearing such a symbol, the man represented on the Adena Pipe may have been taking on the powers associated with a feathered spirit of the Above World. Therefore, the effigy may represent a shaman or medicine man in the act of a ceremonial dance.

Tubular pipes were used for smoking tobacco as a part of special ceremonies. Shamans also could have used them as "sucking tubes" through which they believed they could draw evil spirits from the bodies of sick people.

See Also


  1. Mills, William C. "Excavations of the Adena Mound," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, Volume 10, pp. 452-479, 1902.
  2. Reilly, F. Kent III and James F. Garber, editors. Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.
  3. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005. 
  4. Woodward, Susan L., and Jerry N. McDonald. Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley: A Guide to Mounds and Earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, Cole, and Fort Ancient People. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2002.