William Samson Vaux, Esq., was an enthusiastic nineteenth-century collector of minerals, artifacts, and coins. Passionately interested in the sciences, particularly archaeology and geology, he amassed an unparalleled collection of Native American artifacts that he later donated to the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Today these finds are housed by Bryn Mawr College. Included in the collection is a noteworthy Mississippian effigy pipe. Carved from stone, the pipe depicts a Birdman encircled by rattlesnakes and holding a chunkey stone. This article examines the pipe in its cultural, historical, and religious contexts. It also explores the larger question of the pipe’s authenticity. Ultimately, we argue that the pipe is almost certainly an original Mississippian pipe and an important addition to the corpus of known Mississippian effigy pipes. Moreover, its study highlights the potential of museum collections to provide new information about both past societies and the history of archaeology.

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