Artifact of the Week: Clay Pipe Fragments

_Figure 08-81 NATC A 27639 B 27638
A. Pipe stem fragment; B. Pipe bowl fragment

WikiProject_Scouting_fleur-de-lis_no_scroll.pngOur current artifacts of the week are a clay pipe stem and a pipe bowl fragment featuring an embossed fleur-de-lis recovered by SEAC archeologists during excavations at Fort Rosalie at Natchez National Historical Park. For many of us in the Southeast, the fleur-de-lis is an iconic symbol of Louisiana and the New Orleans Saints. Some may associate it with the emblem of the Boy Scouts of America. Traditionally, however, the fleur-de-lis is the symbol of French royalty.

Two earthenware pipe bowls found at Fort Rosalie are marked with a fleur-de-lis .

Both of these pipe fragments and three additional fragments (two stems and one heel) appear to be made of the same material, a fine, sand-tempered earthenware, and may represent locally manufactured tobacco pipes. The stem fragments are heavy, and the only one with an intact bore measured 11/16 inches in diameter. The wide diameter of the stem and its relatively heavy construction are consistent with known examples of eighteenth and nineteenth century “reed stem” clay tobacco pipes (Noël Hume 1969; Murphy 1974, 1976, 2009).

During the last half of the sixteenth century, smoking tobacco in clay pipes became a popular indulgence in Europe. Inexpensive and sold in large quantities to people at all economic levels, clay pipes became commonplace and remained so until the beginning of the twentieth century.

We’re excited to share this draft 3D scan of one of the fleur-de-lis pipe bowl fragments! SEAC is in the beginning stages of applying this technology to our curation and interpretation. Megan-Suzanne Reed, an  Archeological Technician in SEAC’s NAGPRA and Applied Sciences division, is working on producing 3D scans of several other artifacts. Stay tuned for more 3D imagery and animation from SEAC’s collections!


Two 3D renderings of the fleur-de-lis pipe bowl. Top: “Matcap”; Bottom: “Classic”. Generated using Sketchfab

Please check out the absolutely excellent The Virtual Curation Museum blog for more images and information about 3D scanning!

A bit on Fort Rosalie…


Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur d’Bienville

Fort Rosalie was initially constructed in 1716 as a palisaded fort on a high bluff during the first Natchez War. This year is the 300th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Rosalie, and what most consider the founding of Natchez. Construction materials and corvée labor were provided by the Natchez Indians under the direction of Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur d’Bienville. The wooden fort was burned to the ground during the second Natchez War in 1729 and rebuilt as earthworks in 1733.

Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac

It is worth noting that the Louisiana governor, Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac‘s refusal to smoke the peace pipe, or calumet, and renew alliances with the Natchez factored directly into the violence that precipitated building Fort Rosalie.

In 1763, the British took control of the fort renaming it Fort Panmure. In 1779, the Spanish took control of the Natchez District including the fort. The area was included in the territory transferred to the United States in 1795, evacuated by the Spanish in 1798, and by 1799 was no longer used as a military fortification.

One of John James Audobon’s 1822 paintings of Natchez. Note the Fort Rosalie earth embankment just to the left of the tree in the foreground.

John James Audobon noted in 1820 that the fort was the location of the town gallows and that the old moat was used for burying slaves. Recent collaborative archival research suggests that a considerable section of the fort was destroyed during a landslide in 1869 (Vincas Steponaitis, personal communication 2013).

davis dickson rosalie reconstruction
A view of Jefferson Davis Dickson, Jr.’s 1941 Rosalie “reconstruction.”

Jefferson Davis Dickson, Jr., veteran, sports promoter, and entrepreneur, purchased the bluff top tract that included the Fort Rosalie site in 1939 or 1940. By 1941, a conjectured replica of the fort and Indian village had been constructed at the site as a tourist attraction. One of the log buildings that functioned as the gift shop for the attraction remains at the corner of Canal Street and DA Biglane Street and will be used in some interpretive, commercial, or administrative capacity by the park for the site. Check out the Historic Structures Report on the Old Fort Rosalie Gift Shop here!

old fat mamas bldg
The Old Fort Rosalie Gift Shop, part of Dickson’s reconstruction, now at 500 South Canal Street in Natchez, Mississippi.

Fort Rosalie is not currently open to the public but the park is working to change that. However, the fort isn’t the only site managed by the park…


Check out this blog and video discussing two other important historic archeological sites in Natchez! 


SEAC archeologist Rusty Simmons

Have you been following Natchez History Minutes?

Check out these informative videos on the park’s website and Facebook page!

The Natchez History Minute below is narrated

by SEAC’s very own

Rusty Simmons.



Mississippi Department of Archives and History. 1991    Fort Rosalie Site – Survey and Evaluation of Architectural Resources. Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Jackson.

Murphy, James L. 1974 Nineteenth Century Reed-Stem Tobacco Pipes from Mogadore, Ohio. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 44(4):52-60.

1976 Reed Stem Tobacco Pipes from Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. Northeast Historical Archaeology 5(1):12-27.

2009 A Moravian Clay Pipe from Grape Vine Town, Belmont County, Ohio. Ohio Archeologists 59(2):21-23.

Noël Hume, Ivor. 1969 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.


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