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Blue Morisco Ware

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Artifact Description

The “Tortugas” shipwreck ceramic assemblage contains a major collection of 2,304 kitchen and tableware rims, handles, bases and sherds, the most extensive associated with the 1622 Tierre Firma fleet scientifically excavated to date. These derive from 22 types of pottery forms (1,390 tin-glazed maiolica sherds, 84 blue-painted tablewares, 279 South American colonoware kitchen vessels, 218 unglazed coarse redwares and 333 glazed coarse redwares). Other than the South American colonoware cooking pots and pans, a San Juan polychrome maiolica juglet, one Columbia Plain bowl sub-form of possible New World origin, and one Portuguese jug, these products are currently all identified as being of Spanish origin centered on Seville.

Included in the "Tortugas" ceramic collection are examples of decorated linear Blue Morisco ware one and two-handled jugs and mottled Blue Morisco ware cups. Though well preserved on the wreck, these wares represent just 3.7% of the “Tortugas” tablewares. This pottery is also known as Santo Domingo Blue-on-White ware, named for the area of the Caribbean in which it was systematically studied. Simple, coarse, tin-glazed wares, these vessels are decorated with cobalt blue decoration usually consisting of stylized foliate decoration painted in crude slashing brush strokes. The handles of pitchers are always painted with a series of dashes.

The prevailing ‘Morisco’ classification used by ceramicists is misleading for the "Tortugas" wreck because Seville’s Morisco Muslim community had been expelled in 1610, over a decade prior to the ship’s final voyage in 1622, and thus cannot have produced these wares, even if Morisco potters had originally inspired some styles. Blue Morisco wares have been found throughout the Spanish Caribbean colonies ca. 1550-1630 as well as on the Spanish shipwrecks, the San Antonio, wrecked near Bermuda in 1621, and the Atocha, another ship in the 1622 Tierra Firme fleet.

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