Member Tux Turkel of Yarmouth submitted this story of an amazing archaeological find in response to our call for the best Trail memories of Summer 2014. It was unanimously voted staff favorite, so Tux will receive a $25 gift certificate to LL Bean! Thanks to everyone who sent in their adventures; we’ll post them all as the year goes on. Of course, don’t wait for a contest – if you have a Tale from the Trail anytime, we want to read it and share it with the world. Send submissions to email@example.com.
My first thought was that I had found a piece of an animal bone.
Less than two inches long, the off-white, cylinder-shaped fragment caught my eye, protruding from the sand on Jewell Island last summer. Shore-walking the Casco Bay islands always holds the promise of discovery, and I’ve unearthed many wonderful specimens, from sea-worn bottle labels to seal skulls. But as I examined the white fragment, I noticed a small, black indentation on each end. It seemed to line up.
Unable to clean out the indentations in the sea, I took the fragment home and soaked it in warm water. Then I reamed the indentations with thin wire. Peering through the now-open hole like a telescope, I saw that this was not a bone.
But what was it? As it happens, one of my sons just got his masters degree in archaeology in England. He knew instantly what I had found: A Kaolin
clay pipe stem.
This soft, white clay was used from 1600 to the late 1700s to make pipes for smoking tobacco. Inexpensive and fragile, they were produced by the thousands and brought to North America by English and European settlers. Some had designs on the bowl, or the craftsman’s initials on the stem. The diameter of the bore hole sometimes can provide a clue to the pipe’s age.
I’ve been visiting Jewell Island for 20 years. For now on, anytime I steer my boat into Cocktail Cove, I’ll imagine a sailor from centuries past standing on the shore, having a smoke. It will remind me how much we all have to discover on the bay.