Bridled Horse Pipe

Clay pipe bowl incised with horse head and bridle

Project details

This is one of three locally-made pipes with sculptured imagery found in colonial contexts in the entire Chesapeake region. A pipe with a salamander effigy came from a c. 1635-45 site in Newport News, VA; a pipe with a human effigy came from a c. 1645-55 context at Pope’s Fort in St. Mary’s City, MD; and this pipe bowl made from Virginia clay features the face of a bridled horse.

The top of this bowl has been flattened, and an ear has been pulled up above the rim on each side. The face of the bowl has two almond-shaped eyes, a band at the forehead and around the chin line, and two bands down the nose. An additional pad of clay has been added to the back of the bowl as if to represent the arch of a horse’s neck. A small hole has been made on either side of the face, but they do not penetrate the interior wall of the bowl. The purpose of the holes may have been to hang the pipe around the owner’s neck or to hold a decorative “bridle.”

Since this bowl was apparently made before 1610, it was probably in reaction to the “six Mares and two Horses” brought to the colony in the summer of 1609. This was probably the first time Powhatan Indians had seen horses. Captain John Smith wrote that they were in great awe of the animals and worshiped them as they did “all things that were able to do them hurt beyond their prevention.” It makes sense the Virginia Indians would make a horse image on a tobacco pipe, since tobacco was such an important part of their rituals to placate evil forces.