Archaic Period Ritual Life
A ca. 1200 BC bell-shaped pit in the western portion of the Pierce site produced a unique set of artifacts. In the bottom of the pit, investigators found at least five broken tubular smoking pipes, two balls from a rattle, and several fragments of sheet copper from the Great Lakes region. The recovery of copper from Pierce was important, because it showed that these Cumberland River Valley residents were involved in long-distance exchange.
All the pipes had been broken intentionally. This suggested that site residents may have ritually killed the pipes as part of their ceremonies before placing them in the pit. One irregularly shaped copper sheet fragment had folded edges and a hole pierced through it. It may have been attached to one of the pipes.
Since this bell-shaped pit was located away from the habitation area, the rituals that took place there were probably different from the ceremonies associated with the placement of hoes in pits. Its physical separation may have been purposeful. Rather than involving the entire community, the rituals centered on it may have been restricted to a select few who held special knowledge. Alternatively, rituals linked to the bell-shaped pit could have included activities that either required a large open space (dancing) or activities that were too dangerous to be carried out within the camp (a large bonfire).