2,000 Year Old Pipe Discovered in Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
By Michael O’Malley, The Plain Dealer
Ohio has an official bird (cardinal), a flower (carnation), an insect (ladybug) and even a reptile (black racer snake). Oh, and a fruit (paw paw) too.
Now the state is about to have an official artifact — a 2,000-year-old stone tobacco pipe discovered more than a century ago in an ancient Native American burial ground near Chillicothe.
It’s a seven-inch long pipe carved in the image of a primitive man wearing a decorative loin cloth, large-loop earrings and ceremonial headgear.
The bowl is between his feet and the mouthpiece is on his head, so you would have to puff on the top of his hat to get a hit of tobacco.
“It’s the earliest representation we have of a human in all of Ohio history or prehistory,” said Brad Lepper, curator of archeology at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, where the pipe is kept on display.
The state Senate has adopted a bill designating the pipe as Ohio’s official artifact. On Tuesday, a House committee approved the Senate’s bill and sent it on to be scheduled for a House vote. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Terrence Blair of Washington Township, said, “I’m sure it will be favorably voted on.”
The pipe was discovered during an excavation in 1901 by the historical society on the Ross County estate of Thomas Worthington, Ohio’s 6th governor, who served from 1814 to 1818.
Worthington, who also was one of the first two U.S. senators representing Ohio when it became a state in 1803, named his estate Adena — Hebrew for “delightful place” — which is why the artifact is named the Adena pipe.
The prehistoric culture lived in the Ohio Valley between 800 B.C. and 100 A.D., according to the historical society. The pipe was carved between 20 BC and 40 A.D. The dig also unearthed copper bracelets and flint spear points.
Lepper said the pipe was smoked during religious ceremonies by a shaman or priest who inhaled highly potent tobacco that put him into a trance, hoping to connect to a spiritual world. “It was a special tool for a special person,” said Lepper.
Lepper told the committee that the author of a book, Indian Art in the Americas, known as the definitive reference on Native American art, described the Adena pipe as “the finest known example” of prehistoric stone sculpture north of Mexico.
“What better artifact to represent our Native American heritage than an actual representation of an ancient Native American?” said Lepper. “This honors the ancient Native Americans of Ohio and honors our sixth governor.”
During the hearing, Lepper presented a replica of the pipe, which was passed around among lawmakers, bringing laughter in the committee room, especially when one pretended to take a toke.
The move to make the pipe an official state symbol was started four years ago by students from the Columbus School for Girls who were studying Ohio history.
During Tuesday’s hearing, some lawmakers expressed frustration over how long it is taking to adopt the legislation making the pipe official.
“There’s not much of an excuse for not proceeding with a little more haste,” said Blair.
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