Beauvais stoneware jug handle
Beauvais stoneware chamberpot handle

Rare on Virginia sites, Beauvais stoneware has been found in the Chesapeake region at James Fort and at Jordan’s Journey sites in Prince George County. Elsewhere in North America, Beauvais stoneware is found on 16th- through 18th-century French sites, including South Carolina’s Charles Fort, Maine’s Fort Pentagoet, l’Habitation de Champlain in Quebec, and Montreal (Niellon and Moussette 1981:271, Fig. 61; Faulkner and Faulkner 1987:211; Chrestien and Dufournier 1995:91-101, Gaimster 1997a:305). Hurst et al. write that in England the type is widely distributed in small numbers, but does not appear to be found in the Low Countries due to the prevalence of Rhenish stonewares (1986:105).


Attributes

Fabric: Light gray stoneware; Hurst et al. note the fabric can be indistinguishable from Siegburg (1986:105). The dense, hard fabrics of examples from James Fort are light to dark gray, and contain numerous black dots and lines.

Glaze: Beauvais stoneware is usually unglazed, but sometimes it bears a reddish-brown ash-glaze.  Glazed and unglazed Beauvais sherds bear a strong resemblance to Siegburg stoneware (Hurst et al. 1986:105). On one of the Virginia examples, the exterior glaze consists of patches staining the surface a reddish brown, without adding gloss or covering the surface texture. The James Fort examples bear an iron oxide wash on their exteriors; one is ash-glazed on the exterior. Their exterior surfaces vary from dull grayish-brown to a glossy reddish-brown with dark brown flecks.

Form: Most forms found in Virginia are cylindrical jars known as comfits.  The jar form is like the “preserves or ointment pots” found in Canada (Niellon and Moussette 1981:491-493, Fig.61.9, Fig.63.151QU-4; Chrestien and Dufournier 1995:99, Fig. 2g). In addition to this shape, Beauvais made a wide variety of forms in stoneware, including bottles, jugs, and large storage vessels.

Sherds of two comfits, two chamber pots, and a diminutive vessel with a rolled rim are among the Beauvais stoneware vessels recovered from James Fort. All  are thinly potted and display pronounced rilling and diagonal torquing on their interiors. Torquing is also faintly visible on the exterior surfaces. The exteriors are covered with iron oxide; the interiors of two vessels are covered with iron oxide. 

The lower half of one comfit was recovered from Jamestown’s second well, Structure 177. The exterior base is flat and spreads unevenly and sharply on the edge. Measuring 67 mm in diameter, the base was scuffed and dented before firing. A wide horizontal groove on the vessel exterior above the base is impressed with the potter’s fingerprints, showing he lifted the vessel when still wet. A rim/body sherd of the same vessel displays a wide horizontal groove under the flat, everted rim squared on the edge, and above a narrow, horizontal ridge. 

The chamber pots have thickened rims that are indented on top and squared on the exterior. Attached to one rim is a vertical strap handle with a wide central exterior groove. The handle tapers toward the bottom end, which is missing.  The fourth, unidentified object displays a rolled edge; it may be a small pedestal foot, or the rim of a small salt or ointment pot. 

related images


sources

Chrestien, Jean-Pierre, and Daniel Dufournier. (1995) French Stoneware in North-Eastern North America. In Trade and Discovery: The Scientific Study of Artefacts from Post-Medieval Europe and Beyond, British Museum Occasional Paper 109, edited by Duncan R. Hook and David R.M. Gaimster, pp.91-103. The British Museum, London.

Faulkner, Alaric, and Gretchen Faulkner. (1987) The French at Pentagoet 1635-1674. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta.

Gaimster, David R.M., with contributions by Robin Hildyard, John A. Goodall, Judy Rudoe, Duncan R. Hook, Ian C. Freestone, and Mike S. Tite. (1997) German Stoneware 1200-1900: Archaeology and Cultural History. British Museum Press, London.

Hurst, John G., David S. Neal, and H.J.E. van Beuningen. (1986) Pottery Produced and Traded in North-West Europe 1350-1650, Rotterdam Papers, VI, Rotterdam.

Niellon, Francoise, and Marcel Moussette. (1981) Le site de l’Habitation de Champlain a Quebec: etude de la collection archeologique (1976-1980). Gouvernement du Quebec, Quebec.