Friday, November 6, 2009

A Wolf Head Pipe

Fifty years after Donald Cadzow’s archaeological explorations at the Shenks Ferry Site (Cadzow 1936) staff from the State Museum of Pennsylvania returned to undertake further studies (Kent and Herbstitt 1986). Archaeologists and volunteers located Cadzow’s original excavations at Shenks Ferry, 36La2, and a section of the property was reopened. A complete house pattern and numerous pit features were found, including two deep silo-shaped pits of the Funk Phase period (ca 1400-1550 AD.).

Among the contents of one pit, (Feature 132), were incised pottery sherds, chert and quartz debitage, a slab mortar, a few carbonized nut shells, charcoal and a unique clay effigy pipe fragment, all of which were likely cast into the pit along with the site’s refuse some 400-500 years ago. On the floor of the silo-shaped pit lay the pipe fragment, a well sculpted rendition of the head of an animal that resembles a wolf or perhaps another form of narrow snouted beast.

Buff grayish brown in color, the pipe exhibits a darker brownish gray color around its neck that extends upward along the back of the pipe bowl, to the opening located between the ears and forehead. The modeling was completed during the unfired stage of manufacture since the relief appears well executed and smooth, with no indication of abrasion or gouging.

A similar clay effigy pipe of a bird recovered by Cadzow from the Susquehannock Strickler Site, 36LA3, dated to the 1645-1665 AD period, may be used for comparison relative to the shape of the pipe’s missing stem. It has been suggested that animal effigy pipes represent the owner’s clan affiliation within their native social group.

Cadzow, Donald A.
(1936) Archaeological Studies of the Susquehannock Indians of Pennsylvania Safe Harbor Report No. 2. Pennsylvania Historical Commission, Harrisburg.

Herbstritt, James T., Kent Barry C.
(1990) Shenks Ferry Revisited: A New Look at an Old Culture. Pennsylvania Heritage Vol. XVI No. 1, Harrisburg.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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