Portuguese Coarseware Mug

Portuguese Coarseware Mug

Project details

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

Resources Cited:

Newstead, S. (2014). Cod, Salt and Wine: Tracing Portuguese Pottery in the English North Atlantic World. North Atlantic Archaeology, 3, pp.75-92.