Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 3: Lead Glazed Coarse Earthenware 

The super shiny, glass-like coating you see on many ceramic types is lead glazing.  Potters shaped the vessel, fired it once, then fired it again after adding a powder of lead and silicates.  The powder would melt and bond to the vessel, not easily flicked off.  Lead glazing was quite an improvement- helped to hold water, make the decoration more expressive, and held up better over time.  Was the lead bad for public health?   Lead poisoning from ceramics is rare, but one study on lead glazed ceramics from Port Royal in Jamaica tested toxicity and found evidence the lead leached out and poisoned some of the population. 

Lead glazed ceramics tell a dynamic story of lands changing hands between the Spanish and the British.  Kinds of lead glazing you find around St. Augustine from 16th to 19th century wares include:

Green Bacin (1490-1600)

Cream to tan colored earthenwares with a distinctive emerald green glaze on the interior.  Green Bacin is found on late 16th century sites in Florida and on Spanish Armada shipwrecks.  It has not been found in Spanish Mission contexts or later shipwrecks.

Green Bacin, aka the big green giant!

El Morro  (1550-1700)

El morro, rough, sandy, shiny but rough.  Made in Spanish Americas, named after Castillo in Puerto Rico.  Unlike other lead glazed wears El Morro is rough, not finished very well.  Bits of sand stick up through glaze, very rough, sandpaper texture.  Very common in St. Augustine.  Did I mention it's rough?  

El Morro, very gritty surface.

Named at the same time as El Morro, Rey Ware has reddish paste, more compact than El Morro, less sandy.  Doesn't occur until 18th century.  The main characteristic is its smoothness- very, very smooth.  There is no proof Rey Ware is Spanish named, and on English sites it's called glazed earthenware.  Did I mention it's smooth?

Rey Ware with its high gloss finish.

A mouthful to say, this redware is soft, sandy, dark orange and friable. Reflective glaze found often on one side but sometimes on both sides of the vessel.  This type is found commonly on 16th century St. Augustine sites and other locations in the Caribbean and South America.  Can often be misidentified or crumbled beyond recognition. 

Crumbly bits of 16th Century Lead Glazed Redware.

Buckley (1650 to 1800s) 

Striated (mixed) pastes alternating red and yellow to make an almost purple paste with black shiny glaze.  Most common form was big storage jars with ribs or ridges.  Dates fluctuate depending on historical events (British occupation), so it's a good example of dates of use not strictly following production dates.  As a British made ware, rare to find in St. Augustine but indicative of British Period or as allowed in trade.

Rare find of British Buckley ware in St. Augustine.

Similar to Buckley this type has cream to terracotta colored paste with black glossy glaze, but unlike Buckley the paste color is consistent with no striations.  The glaze is thick, coal-black and shiny.  Spanish made, not British, and therefore more readily found in St. Augustine.

Jackfield (1740-1790)

Similar to Buckley with purple paste and black glaze, but paste more compact to the point of being a stoneware-like.  The black glaze is so glossy, appears to have an iridescent shine like an oil slick.  Also indicative of British Period (also see Jefpat listing for Jackfield).

Jackfield sherd, a British earthenware so dense it's often typed as a stoneware.

This British type does occur in St. Augustine and both Spanish and British colonies. The paste is not consistent- coarse grey paste is surrounded by a reddish color.  Doesn't have sand in the temper but there are pebbles in the paste.  The inside is lead glazed with an apple-green color.  Sherds are thick, indicative of large crocks and jugs. 

Check back next time for Slip decorated wares!

Other posts in the #ceramics101 series (will provide link as they are posted):
Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slip decorated and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  


Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Jefferson Patterson Parks and Museum, Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland, Colonial Ceramics webpage (

Hailey, T. I. 1994.  The Analysis of 17th, 18th, and 19th- Century Ceramics from Port Royal, Jamaica for Lead Release: A Study in Archaeotoxology.  (

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