Collection online


  • 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
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    1977-1978 15 Dec- 30 Oct, Museum of Mankind, Room 9; Smoking Pipes of the North American Indian
    1993-1995, London, Museum of Mankind, Treasures of the Americas
    1999-25 Jun-2010, 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 23 Apr-01 Aug, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014-2015 13 Dec-15 Mar, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 18 Apr–28 Jun, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 14 Jul–6 Sep, Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015-2016 20 Sep-11 Jan, Kobe City Museum, Kobe, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2016 13 Feb-18 Jun, National Museum of Western Australia, Perth, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2016-2017 08 Sep-29 Jan, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2017 1 Mar-31 May, National Museum of China, Beijing, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2017 28 Jun-08 Oct, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

  • 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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