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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Smoking pipe; carved from stone; pipe with rectangular platform with otter's head and front paws extending up from centre of platform to form pipe bowl.

  • Ethnic name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 200BC-400
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 10 centimetres
    • Height: 5.1 centimetres
    • Width: 3.3 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Excavated by Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis at Mound City, Chilicothe Ohio, in 1846. This is one of the approximately 200 pipes found in Mound 8, most of these pipes being animal effigies, and many of those being animals that either fly, or as is the case with this pipe, swim. The deep carved empty eye sockets would have originally had fresh water pearls, and it is thought that originally there was a fish in the mouth of this otter. Initially the mammal on this pipe was identifed as a manatee, such mis-identifications of some of the animals on these pipes fueled diffusionist theory debates of the 19th century, in which it was falsely contended that the mound builders were of external origin.


  • Bibliography

    • MacGregor 2010 37 bibliographic details
    • King 1999 p.20 bibliographic details
    • King 1977 p.44 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    1977 15 Dec-1978 30 Oct, Museum of Mankind, Room 9; Smoking Pipes of the North American Indian
    1993-95, London, Museum of Mankind, 'Treasures of the Americas'
    1999 25 Jun-Present, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The First Americans / Hopewell Pipes from Mound City, Ohio"
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014 March-August, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, "History of the World"
    2014-13 Dec-March 2015, Taiwan; National Palace Museum, A History of the World

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    20 September 1996

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Improve breaklines. Remove white residue from bottom. illip A


    Overall sound. White adhesive residue on bottom. Discoloured and uneven fills in breaklines.

    Treatment details

    Cut back old fills with a scalpel. To make fills flush with original surface Polyfilla fine surface (calcium carbonate, polyvinyl acetate) was added where necessary. Polished surface of fill and retouched with Rowney's Cryla colours (acrylic).

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Am1931E1.266 (old CDMS no.)
COMPASS Title: Pipe in the form of an otter


COMPASS Title: Pipe in the form of an otter

Image description



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Object reference number: ENA9310

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