The ceramic assemblage is predominately characterized by fragments of Spanish coarse earthenware of the olive jar variety. Descendent from Mediterranean wine amphorae, olive jars (known as botijas, botijuelas, and botijas peruleras) were used as containers for wine, olive oil, vinegar, honey, and other foodstuffs. They are frequently found on Spanish colonial sites, and are especially common on Spanish shipwrecks. Depletion of wood resources in Southern Europe, caused by centuries of shipbuilding and domestic usage, required an equally stable and versatile alternative to the wooden cask or barrel. Highly portable, and shaped in such a way that they could easily be stacked in the hold of a ship, olive jars had the benefits of strength and the ability to be reused. On transoceanic voyages these storage vessels served a dual function of cargo and ballast; once the voyage was complete, the jars could be emptied, washed, and refilled for a return voyage.
Fig. 54. The Spanish Olive Jar was a common form of ceramic container for olive oil, wine, and other foodstuffs.
Storing liquids in earthenware containers can result in seepage, as the coarse, low-fired wares tended to absorb their contents. One method of solving this problem was to coat the interior of the vessel with a waterproof substance. Many olive jar sherds from the Emanuel Point Ship were found to be coated on the interior with two different kinds of sealant: a clay slip on some, and pine pitch on others (Wells 1994). Most of the sherds exhibit a white effluorescence on the exterior surface, which may have been a result of the unfired vessel having been washed with a saltwater slurry and then fired, causing the calcium within the clay to rise to the surface.
Fig. 55. Olive Jar interiors were frequently coated with pine resin to prevent liquids from seeping out of these porous ceramic containers.
The traditional typology of olive jars is the work of Goggin (1960), who divided the containers into three distinct styles (early, middle, and late), based on vessel form and rim shape. Goggin also was able to establish separate date ranges for the different styles. Based on paste characteristics and sherd thickness, most of the Emanuel Point olive jar sherds fit within Goggin’s Middle Style; however, based on rim style, they appear to be of an early variety that has since been noted by more recent researchers on shipwrecks of the mid-16th century (Marken 1994; Avery 1993, 1994). The rim shapes correspond to what Marken has defined as Type 2, examples of which have been found on the St. John’s Bahamas wreck (1500-1550) and the Padre Island, Texas wrecks (1554) (Skowronek 1987; Marken 1994: 50-57).
Fig. 56. Profiles of these Olive Jar rims depict an inverted teardrop form characteristic of the early Middle Style.
A recent comparative study of olive jar rim shapes from shipwrecks, which are securely dated if their year of sinking is known, documents, for the first time, a gradual change in rim styles over time (Avery 1993). Using examples of rimsherds from the St. Johns wreck (1500-1550), the Padre Island wrecks (1554), the Spanish Armada wrecks (1588), Rosario (1590), San Martín (1618), an unidentified wreck believed to be from the 1622 fleet, Concepción (1641), the 1715 fleet wrecks, Tolosa and Guadalupe (1724), and the 1733 fleet wrecks, Avery has recorded the transition from an early to mid 16th-century inverted teardrop rim shape, to a curved, triangular-inprofile rim shape that begins in the 1580s, and evolves through the 17th century to an elongated, “question-mark” shape, culminating in a fat, donut rim profile.
Table XI. Chronological Chart of Middle Style Olive Jar Rim Profiles from Shipwrecks *
* Courtesy of George E. Avery (1993) 1588
Compared with Avery’s chronological outline, rimsherds from the Emanuel Point collection unlike those from sites dated 1588 and later; rather they are similar in profile to examples from the St. Johns and Padre Island sites, which date from the early to middle of the 16th century. This shape (Marken’s Type 2), however, has turned up on the wrecks of the Spanish Armada, but it represents an isolated example among the predominance of Marken Type 3 Middle Style rims (Martin 1979; Marken 1994). And in turn, there are some examples of thicker, Middle Style rims in the Padre Island, aside from the Type 2 shape (Skowronek 1987; Olds 1976). Based on his research, Avery suggests that the date for the Middle Style olive jar can be pushed back to 1554; he is also attempting to discover a connection between rim shape and container usage (Avery 1994).
Fig. 57. This Olive Jar, found at the early Spanish townsite of Concepción de la Vega (1495-1562), Dominican Republic, may be an example of the type of jars that were carried on the Emanuel Point Ship (photo courtesy of George Avery).
Analysis of body sherds in the Emanuel Point collection indicates that the ship carried, in addition to early Middle Style jars, another variety of container with thinner body walls. The thin-walled sherds have a reddish paste, large quartz inclusions, a clay slip on the interior, and effluorescence on the exterior. They are probably from an Early Style vessel, since vertical rather than horizontal rilling patterns (the impressions left by a potter’s fingers or tools) are evident on several partially reconstructed sherds. However, no handle remnants or breakage scars appear on the portions thus far recovered. Avery suggests that the Early style container defined by Goggin is not of the Olive Jar variety but rather a form of cantina (Avery 1994, pers. comm.). Known as a cantimplora, an early style ceramic vessel with handles descended from the Near Eastern pilgrim bottle, this portable container fell into disuse in mid-16th century (Lister and Lister 1987:132).