Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From Germany with Love

The other day while excavating in our unit on the southern side, about forty-three centimeters down, we happened to unearth a piece of ceramic about the size of a dime with a dark blue glaze on one side. This type of ceramic is part of a stoneware vessel which was produced in the Rhine Valley and the German states and is commonly referred to as Westerwald Ware, named from the region it was produce and exported from.[1]
            Westerwald is a durable form of ceramic made from the local Rhenish clays which means that the ceramic itself varies from an off white to a gray and are found along the Rhine Valley and in the Westerwald region in the Southwest of modern day Germany. The characteristic blue glaze is made using cobalt, although purple was introduced by using manganese after 1665, and is the trademark for this sort of pottery. This style originated in the Low Countries in the 16th century until a large amount of the potters decided to migrate to the Westerwald region at the end of the 17th century where the practiced flourished.[2] These ceramics were then traded to France and Britain for use as jugs, tankards or chamber pots, with medallions on the British bound items with either “AR” for Queen Anne who reigned from 1702-14 or “GR” for both King George I and II who reigned from 1714-1760.[3]
A sherd found at the site yesterday
The ceramics were not slip molded like other ceramics of the period, but thrown on a wheel and then designs were molded, stamped or carved into the vessels.[4] Some vessels were found at other sites which have no indication of the “blauwerk” that is commonly seen, but are decorated in flowers and have been associated for being produced especially for the French trade.[5] In Jamestown, these artifacts have been recovered, but do not show up in large quantities until the 18th century.[6] Other examples have been found across Colonial America including sites such as Williamsburg, Virginia, along the Chesapeake Bay, into the fortresses of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia and Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Between 1959 and 1965, 73 shards of Westerwald ware were discovered at Fort Michilimackinac, during the period at which the British occupied the fort.[7]
The Rhineland with Europe
From what we can conclude about this one shard, and five others discovered at the site up to 2010, is that Fort St. Joseph was part of an extensive trade network. Pieces were formed and finished in the German States and then shipped to either Britain or France where it was then shipped to the New World. Though there are examples found at French occupied zones, they were more prevalent with the British, who did control Fort St. Joseph from 1761 to 1763.

[1]  J. Jefferson Miller and Lyle M. Stone, Eighteenth Century Ceramics from Fort Michilimackinac: A Study in Historical Archaeology (Washington: Smithsonian), 74.

[2] “Westerwald Stoneware,” Accessed July 31, 2013,
[3] “Rhenish Stoneware,” Accessed July 31, 2013,
[4] Westerwald”
[5] Miller and Stone, Ceramic, 76.
[6] “Westerwald”
[7] Miller and Stone, Ceramics, 76.

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