The ceramic vessels that inspired these coaster designs are typically referred to as apothecary or drug jars. They are made of a pottery called delftware, which is a type of tin-glazed earthenware. Tin-glazing on pottery produces an opaque white background, over which potters would hand-paint simple motifs using pigments like cobalt blue, manganese purple, iron orange, and antimony yellow.
Delftware in this form was made in Belgium as early as 1512. By the end of the 16th century, manufacture had spread to England and mass quantities of delftware jars were produced. These jars were shipped with the Jamestown settlers in large numbers and were used for storing a variety of provisions such as medicines, ointments, spices, herbs, and condiments. Once emptied, their convenient sizes and shapes made them suitable for reuse.
Material: Sandstone with cork backer
Left: The palette of this jar includes three colors: blue, orange, and purple. Archaeologists discovered it in Pit 1, a cellar for a barracks-type building excavated at Jamestown, where it was thrown away in 1610.
Delftware; Aldgate or Netherlandish. 0008-JR
Right: Decorated in blue and purple, this jar features a foliate motif with leaves and spirals known as “Antwerp curls.” Recovered from Structure 183, the Bakery, this tall jar may have once contained dried fruits or condiments for cooking.
Delftware; Aldgate or Netherlandish. 00852-JR
Left: The pattern on this jar is sometimes known as fish scales, fish eggs, or peacock feathers, but it was inspired by a Ming-era Chinese porcelain motif. It was recovered from Pit 5, which dates ca. 1610.
Delftware; Aldgate or Netherlandish. 03349-JR
Right: This earthenware jar with a hand-painted blue, purple, orange, and yellow decoration was thrown away in James Fort’s first well, Structure 185, in 1610. It may have contained medicinal supplies brought by two apothecaries who arrived in Jamestown in 1608.
Delftware: Aldgate or Netherlandish. 05758-JR