Portuguese coarseware jug

Portuguese coarseware jug

  • Object number – 8200-JR
  • Material – Earthenware Ceramic
  • Place of Origin – Portugal
  • Date – 17th century
  • Context – JR1H; JR38B; APVA-1901
  • Location – Vault
  • Category – Foodways

This object is a Portuguese coarseware globular mug or cup (púcaro). It has been mended from fragments found across James Fort, including a piece that was found during early excavations of the Ludwell Statehouse (near the current Archaearium museum) in 1901. It originally had a small handle, which has not yet been found and the rim is missing. Portuguese coarseware often contains many small particles of mica in the clay, and tiny specks can be seen with the naked eye on the surface of the vessel. It is not glazed, but has a smooth and shiny appearance due to burnishing.

While the fragments of this particular object were found in later contexts on the James Fort site, vessels of this ware type have been identified at Jamestown in contexts dating as early as ca. 1610. Portuguese coarseware was common in England during the 16th and 17th centuries and has been found on archaeological sites of this time period both in North America and in Britain (Newstead 2014). This object was likely shipped from Portugal to England, and then traveled from England to Jamestown. It is possible that, as a relatively fine tableware, it was purchased by a wealthier individual as a luxury/exotic good to represent the owner’s higher social status.



Fabric: Porous earthenware fabric,  ranging in color from a pinkish-, to reddish-, to purplish-orange, occasionally streaked with yellow, and sometimes having a reduced gray to purplish core.  Portuguese coarseware  generally contains prolific mica flecks, and occasional quartz, feldspar and grog inclusions.

Glaze: This ware is generally unglazed, and often highly burnished. Coarse utilitarian olive jars are sometimes white slipped, or glazed with lead appearing green from the addition of copper oxide, or yellowish-brown without the addition of oxides.

Form: The refined tableware forms recovered from James Fort include a highly burnished jug (cântaro); a globular cup (púcaro); shallow bowls; and olive jars (anforet). The jug is globular and curves inward toward its tall base. Its thickened, everted rim is rolled on the exterior edge, and has a pinched pouring spout. A single horizontal ridge ornaments the central neck, and two incised horizontal lines separate the neck from the bulbous body. Its vertical strap handle terminates with a rat-tail. Similarly, the cup is globular, highly burnished, and has a rat-tail handle terminal. The bowls are small in diameter and shallow. Their walls flare outward, and their rims are everted and rounded on the top edge. Their exterior bases are raised and encircled by a short, u-sectioned footring.
A body section of a small capacity olive jar was recovered from the “Cellar Well.” This vessel is glazed on the upper exterior with a lead glaze appearing green from the addition of copper oxide. A section of a larger olive jar was recovered from a later deposit in John White’s House. It has a triangular-sectioned rim, which displays traces of a white slip on the interior and exterior. A spotty lead glaze appears yellow on the slip, and brown where it dripped on the exterior body.

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