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Lizard Pipes

In his 1914 archaeology report on Ontario Effigy Pipes in Stone, Col. Geo. E. Laidlaw writes about the unique Lizard Pipe specimens in Ontario, of which we have on display in our permanent exhibit with a unique provenance.

Lizard Pipes are ” nearly always a white or light-gray stone, [of] steatite and limestone.” Steatite pipes, being a stronger material, have held their carved features better than the softer limestone. Col. Laidlaw distinguishes two categories of effigy pipes:

“1st, Long slender stemmed pipes, with effigies, either human or lizard, clasping the front of the bowl, with head projecting above rim, and when the effigy is a lizard the tail extends along underside of stem. Sometimes only the human head is represented (in one case an animal) perched on edge of bowl.
2nd, Stemless bowls of an ovoid or vase type, with the effigies clasping, or crawling up the bowl on the opposite side of the stem hole. In this second division, so far as observed, the effigies are those of lizards, with one exception.” **

Stemmed Lizard Pipe
Stemmed Lizard Pipe
Source: Ontario Effigy Pipes in Stone.
Stemless lizard pipe
Stemless Lizard Pipe Source: Ontario Effigy Pipes in Stone.

The 1st style is on display in our permanent exhibit with the Lawson Site artifacts, accompanied by this news article:

“Rare Indian Lizard Pipe Given to the University Museum”
–  January 1943 – London Free Press news article.

Long known and coveted by collectors throughout the country, and also the subject of articles by various archaeologists in recent years, an Indian Lizard pipe of unique design has just been acquired by the Museum of Indian Archaeology at the University of Western Ontario. The pipe was originally found on the Lawson Prehistoric Village site near London, originally known as the Shaw Woods Estate. Historians have found abundant evidence of an Indian Village existing on this spot and dating back before the French explorers arrived in the 17th century. The Lizard pipe was found here by the late John Sonly, farm manager, half a century ago, while digging up a large elm root. It is of grey limestone. With the stem three inches long. The stem has a lizard clinging to it, and in front of the bowl a human head faces away from the smoker – a variation from the usual design in such pipes, where the head normally faces the person using the pipe. Col. G.E. Laidlaw, in an article on “Effigy Pipes in Stone,” appearing in the 1923 Archaeological Report, Department of Education, Ontario, says the pipe, […] is attributed to the Attiwandaron tribe. It was for many years in possession of Mr. Schreiber, of London, daughter of Mr. Sonly, who found it. It was sold by Mrs. Schreiber to W.H. Coverdale, president of the Canada Steamship Lines, who has now presented it to the University of Western Ontario where its advent is a cause of much pride to Wilfrid Jury, curator of the Museum.

** Images and further descriptions can be found in the digital version of the paper at:

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