A saggar is a clay structure that unfired tobacco pipes were placed within so that the pipes wouldn’t come into direct contact with fire inside of a kiln, which could increase their chances of breaking during firing. Occasionally kilns were shared between pipemakers and potters, and because large ceramic vessels could withstand higher heat, smaller and more fragile tobacco pipes needed protection within the hot kiln. Saggars used in Dutch pipe manufacture, were called pijpenpotten, which translates literally to “pipe-pot” or kapsel.
This saggar was made in Virginia, using locally found clay by “tobacco-pipe-maker” Robert Cotton who arrived at Jamestown aboard the Phoenix in late April 1608. Because it shows little evidence of use in a fire, it probably broke shortly after it was made. In Virginia, where kilns had not yet been built, this saggar would have protected tobacco pipes during firing in an open hearth fire, protecting the pipes from contact with flames, smoke, and ashes.
The saggar has a flat bottom, a domed top, and slots cut into the sides for ventilation and even distribution of heat. Judging from an abundance of archaeological evidence from early fort contexts, Cotton’s pipe-making industry was successful but short-lived. The diminishing quantities of Cotton-made pipes and saggars from post 1610 archaeological contexts suggests he died along with most settlers during the “Starving Time” winter of 1609-1610.
This pipe saggar is comprised of fragments that were found in multiple early fort-period features at Jamestown. Similar to ceramic vessels, objects like this that include fragments which mend from disparate features help archaeologists determine features that were in use on the site contemporaneously.