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Blue-on-Blue Seville Ware

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Artifact Description

The “Tortugas” shipwreck ceramic assemblage contains a major collection of 2,304 kitchen and tableware rims, handles, bases and sherds, the most extensive associated with the 1622 Tierre Firma fleet scientifically excavated to date. These derive from 22 types of pottery forms (1,390 tin-glazed maiolica sherds, 84 blue-painted tablewares, 279 South American colonoware kitchen vessels, 218 unglazed coarse redwares and 333 glazed coarse redwares). Other than the South American colonoware cooking pots and pans, a San Juan polychrome maiolica juglet, one Columbia Plain bowl sub-form of possible New World origin, and one Portuguese jug, these products are currently all identified as being of Spanish origin centered on Seville.

The most conspicuous tablewares recovered from the “Tortugas” wreck site are 17 Blue-on-Blue Seville maiolica dishes which incorporate ten different motifs painted across the rims, primarily schematized swirling floral variants. The interior base medallions feature 11 forms of star, fruit, and the most common design, six sub-forms of floral motifs with outward radiating petals. The same decorative scheme appears on shallow bowl bases. Dish dimensions vary from H. 3.1-4.2cm, Diam. 18.1-21.3cm and rim Th. 0.5cm. This maiolica style was also present in four shallow bowl bases featuring the same decorative scheme. Comparable Blue-on-Blue Seville majolica is attested on the 1622 wreck of the Atocha off Florida Keys and further afield in the Convento de San Francisco in the Dominican Republic. The decorative rim style has been recovered in Seville and was probably originally inspired by the Chinese ceramic symbol of the lotus flower. This is one of the few categories of Spanish colonial pottery whose origin in Seville is archaeologically verifiable. A workshop and kiln excavated in the famous potters quarter of Triana in Seville is also a likely origin for part of the “Tortugas” ship’s Blue-on-Blue Seville maiolica.


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