Article and Photographs by Sam Johnson
Styles of pipes are a significant marker in the archeological record of many cultures. It seems as though Caddo pipe styles stayed the same for longer periods of time than the quickly evolving and overlapping styles attributed to ancient pottery types of the same period. This is very true in the Caddoan culture that spanned the geographic areas of the current states of Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
The earliest pipe forms from this region were made mostly of stone, but pottery was also a source of manufacture during the early period. These early pipes, called “Poole” pipes, had long, sometimes tapering, stems and fairly tall bowls with notched tally marks around the rim. These early forms, especially the stone examples, were of the woodland period and are sometimes found with boatstones.
The next style of pipe noted in the area was the very delicate pipe known as the “long stem pipe”. Many of these were documented by C.B. Moore in his early expedition of the late 1800s and early 1900s and M.R. Harrington’s expedition and excavations for the Heye Foundation during the 1920s in the same area. This style is attributed to the Coles Creek culture as well as early Caddoan peoples. The bowls were very delicate; about the size of a modern thimble. The stem was small in diameter and ranged in length from 6″ to 15″.
The next style of pipe is called the “Haley” pipe, named after the site where C.B. Moore first discovered this style. This is the style most easily recognized by collectors. It is a medium length stem with a pointed tip and a medium size bowl. This style is always made from pottery. It is usually a blond to red color clay and sometimes has attractive fire marks. Bowls are slightly tapered and the stems are usually in the 4″ to 7″ range in length. The only exception is the “Long Stem Haley”, which may have a stem length of 8″ to 12″. This style is the transition style from the long-stem to the classic Haley style.
Poole style pipe
Haley style with pointed end
Poole style pipe with flat base
Elbow loop pipe
This style was used over approximately a 500-year period. It began in about 800 A.D. and finally evolved into the elbow style about 1300 A.D. The “elbow” style pipe was the last style used in the region. It was used in conjunction with a wooden or cane stem. This stem was inserted into the pipe while in use and then stored away for later use or discarded in favor of a new one. Many times, the drip end of these elbow style pipes had a loop applied as a handle for the person to hold during smoking. This loop style is found during the later period of 1350 up to contact with the white man in about the 1500s. This was when contact brought white-man-made, mass-produced pipes. When these were traded, the Native Americans unfortunately stopped producing the clay pipes that had been their artifacts for hundreds of years. Any Caddo pipes are fairly rare, but the earliest examples are the most rare, with the middle and later period styles being the most common. I have been asked to define the ratio of pipes found to pottery vessels. This does vary from site to site, but most sites would produce 100 plus pottery vessels before it produced the first pipe.
Clay engraved elbow pipe
The Caddoan people lived and were at their artistic height during the middle Mississippian time period. The Spiro mounds, with its many fantastic effigy “art” pipes, located in eastern Oklahoma within a few miles of the Arkansas state line, was a Caddoan Site. The basic pipe forms and shapes I have described are a great time period marker and many are well made “art” examples. However, some of the effigy pipes made of pottery and stone are certainly worthy of high art status and will stand with the best of sculpture from any time period.