Earthenware crucible
Hessian Refractory crucible

Production of high-quality refactory vessels began in the 12th century in today’s town of Grossalmerode in the German region of Hesse. They were widely exported from about 1500. Numerous Hessian triangular- and beaker-shaped crucibles of various sizes have been found in the earliest features at James Fort. A large assemblage of crucibles was brought by skilled European craftsmen to Jamestown before 1610 to detect and refine metals and to produce glass. Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) sherd analysis determined they James Fort examples were manufactured in the region of Hesse.


Fabric: James Fort crucibles have a dense, buff- to dark gray-colored fabric that contains a copious amount of quartz and some hematite. The quartz inclusions are readily visible on the vessel surfaces, which lends a sandpaper-like appearance and feel.

Glaze: Unglazed.

Decoration: Undecorated. One beaker is stamped with a circular mark in relief: “PTV GER” for Peter Topfer, a Hessian potter.

Form: Beakers occur in several sizes. They have thick, flat bases; thickly potted walls that flare outward toward the rim; and slightly everted rims with a pinched pouring spout. A horizontal tool mark appears below the exterior rim. The smaller, triangular-shaped forms have thick flat bases, and thin, out-flaring walls that were shaped to form three corners and three pouring spouts on the rim

selected artifacts


Martinón-Torres, Marcos and Thilo Rehren (2005) Analysis and Interpretation of Some Crucible Fragments from Jamestown. Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London, UK. 

Martinón-Torres, Marcos and Thilo Rehren (2009) Post-Medieval Crucible Production and Distribution: A Study of Materials and Materialities. Archaeometry 51(1): 49-74. 

Owen, J. Victor, John D. Greenough, and Beverly Straube (2014) Compositional Characteristics of Jamestown ‘Tryal’ Glass (Virginia, ca. 1608). Historical Archaeology 48(4): 76-94. 

Rehren, Thilo, Umberto Veronesi, Beverly Straube, and Marcos Martinón-Torres (2019) Glassmaking Tests at Early Jamestown? Some New Thoughts and Data. Journal of Glass Studies 61: 265-270.