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Blue-on-White Talavera 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.

Imitating Chinese blue-on-white Wanli porcelain, the Blue-on-White Talavera-Style dishes 13.6% of the total fine wares) display the most graphic decorative schemes within the “Tortugas” collection. Examples imitate kraakware rims with vertical diaper registers and classical base motifs, such as a bird sitting on a rock in a garden landscape. An additional set is adorned with heraldic or religious motifs, such as two crossed keys surmounted by a cross and two dish fragments inscribed with the letters ‘CAR’ ‘MO’, potentially part of the ecclesiastical name Carmel. Identical dish styles excavated at the Carthusian monastery at Jérez de la Frontera, Spain, inscribed on their interior bases with the monogram ‘AM’ for Ave Maria, would have been appropriate for ecclesiastical use. While such religiously inspired dishes, and a Catholic pendant and clay figurine of the Virgin Mary excavated from the “Tortugas” shipwreck, could have been used by members of the crew, it would not have been unexpected to find a clergyman on the ship traveling between a monastery on the Spanish Main and the Spanish homeland.

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