This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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. In
Jamestown, these artifacts have been recovered, but do not show up in large
quantities until the 18th century. 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.
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.
Jefferson Miller and Lyle M. Stone, Eighteenth
Century Ceramics from Fort Michilimackinac: A Study in Historical Archaeology (Washington:
“Westerwald Stoneware,” Accessed July 31, 2013,
Stoneware,” Accessed July 31, 2013,