Case Bottle
Case Bottle

This four-sided bottle is the most common glass vessel form at Jamestown during the first half of the seventeenth century. Jamestown Rediscovery’s archaeological collection includes numerous bottles of this shape in various sizes made to contain different types of liquids. Glassblowers blew square-sectioned bottles into rectangular-shaped molds and finished them with two different types of necks. Many have a lead collar applied to the neck into which a lead cap was screwed. However, the most common neck is finished with a slightly everted rim, and it was sealed with cork. Case bottles were made to fit inside a wooden case, generally containing 12 bottles, thus the name “case bottle” or “bottle case,” a term first used in the mid-1600s.

Prior to 1600, wine-producing countries — Germany, France, and Italy — were also the major makers and exporters of wine bottles, including glass vessels like these case bottles, and ceramic vessels like Bartmann jugs. Wine was produced and stored in wooden barrels and only bottled when it was ready to be served. 

Jamestown’s case bottles may have been shipped to Jamestown as empty bottles intended for serving wine, but it is more likely they were made in and exported from the Netherlands containing aqua vitae, a liquor similar to gin. Aqua vitae was consumed by the colonists at Jamestown as early as 1607, but it was also used in alchemical experiments, which may account for the large amounts of case bottle glass found at Structure 165, the Factory.

Some of the small glass case bottles shipped to Jamestown may have also contained perfumes, ointments, vinegar, or medicinal liquids. Around 1635, glass bottle manufacturing had improved, and winemakers discovered that their wine lasted longer when bottled and stored in glass. By 1650, English glassblowers began to make bulbous or globular-shaped bottles to hold wine, like those recovered from the Wine cellar. The transition to globular wine bottles is unmistakably noticeable at Jamestown in the second half of the seventeenth century. Green glass wine bottles are not recovered from contexts dating before 1650, after which thin-walled case bottles become rare. A similar change is seen in the recovery of fragments of German-made Bartmann jugs. As English glass wine bottles become more common, use of the Frechen stoneware jugs tapers off.

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