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Woodpecker Effigy Pipe Bowl

Woodpecker Effigy Pipe Bowl


This five hundred year old woodpecker effigy pipe bowl was fashioned out of limestone and was recovered from the Mantle site, located northeast of Toronto.

Curatorial Comment

The ancestral Huron-Wendat, early sixteenth century Mantle site, situated northeast of Toronto, encompassed an area of over 4.2 hectares (nine acres). The settlement was enclosed by a three row palisade and was found to contain over ninety longhouses of which approximately fifty seem to have been occupied at one time. The fact that the site may have been occupied by approximately two thousand people belies the considerable complexity with which the Wendat site planners would have been confronted. The community would have required more than sixty thousand even-aged saplings to construct houses and palisade walls and the agricultural field system would have been hundreds, if not thousands of hectares in extent. During most of the occupation of the site, it would appear that refuse was directed out of the interior of the village into a borrow trench situated on the outside of the palisade—thereby representing one of the first organic and inorganic waste stream management systems known in the northeast. This site is the largest and most complex ancestral Huron site to yet be excavated on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Over 100,000 artifacts as fascinating as the Woodpecker effigy pipe were recovered from the site and are being interpreted. 

Ronald W.

Ronald W.

The Little Grey Woodpecker and the Indian Maid

This striking piece of art was found by my crew at an ancestral Huron village just north of Toronto. Archaeologists are normally at a loss to explain the significance of such objects. In this case, we see the significance of the woodpecker reflected in the following story by Kitty Greyeyes, a Wyandot woman as told to her nephew, B.N.O. Walker, in 1911.

A beautiful Indian maid often went to dances. Whenever she was getting ready for a dance or a feast, a little grey Woodpecker would always assist her in dressing. It was with the utmost care that he helped her when she put the many coloured paints on her face.

The little bird’s feathers were all of one colour, that is, grey all over, with some small white spots in his feathers. Every time his mistress painted these various colours on her face, he would look at her with great admiration and think that she was very pretty, indeed, especially with the bright red colours.

One day, when he was alone, the little bird noticed that one of the wooden brushes that she had used was still lying there, with some red paint on it. Now he said, “I will make myself look pretty with it!” So he took the brush and rubbed it many times on each side of his head, over his ears and that is how he obtained those two tiny red stripes that are still to be seen on his head nowadays.

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