Pipestone Effigy- Wabasha County, MN

This red pipestone animal effigy closely resembles a bear. Two ears, a stub tail and legs with feet have been carved….

Posted by UW-La Crosse MVAC on Thursday, July 12, 2018


How does one interpret this artifact? Was this a fashionable pendant?  Did it have ceremonial value? Was it simply used for trade? This effigy has three observable features (red stone, bear-shape and hole), but only one is traceable in the archaeological record.

Mississippian Valley was home to many source materials including a hematite-based, argillite known as red pipestone. In archaeological contexts, artifacts made red pipestone are primarily associated with the calumet ceremony- a ritual of maintaining peace during trade activities. Recent studies identify multiple sources of red pipestone throughout the region. Catlinite is most well-known, but other types have similar carving qualities.


  • Fishel, Richard L., et al. “Sourcing Red Pipestone Artifacts from Oneota Villages in the Little Sioux Valley of Northwest Iowa.” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 35.2 (2010): 167-198.
  • Gundersen, James Novotny. ““Catlinite” and the Spread of the Calumet Ceremony.” American antiquity 58.3 (1993): 560-562.
  • Brown, Ian W. “The calumet ceremony in the southeast and its archaeological manifestations.” American Antiquity 54.2 (1989): 311-331.