Carved Pipe bowl; Indigenous peoples, North America


This pipe bowl is one of four pipe bowls in the De Peyster collection, each is decorated differently. Tobacco originated in the Americas and smoking featured in many types of ceremonies and rituals. It was believed that the smoke helped to carry messages to the spirits. Figures depicted on pipes facing the smoker were thought to represent their personal guardian spirit. The sacrament of smoking is very important and pipe ceremonies were often used to confirm a covenant or a treaty. It was believed the ritual was a way of connecting to the energies of the universe. The large dark brown stone bowl, in the form of a human head, is thought to have a beaver spirit animal behind the head, although the damage to the face of the animal makes it difficult to identify. The pipe bowls in the collection were most likely gifted to De Peyster at a meeting of the Nations of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi, in 1775.