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A Ceramic Myriad. Heirlooms of Utility and Domesticity in a Transitional Old Town San Diego. an analysis of the Mexican pottery recovered in the excavations on Block 408 in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, California. Benjamin D. O. Hanowell (CSU Sacramento). What’s with the title?.

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a ceramic myriad

A Ceramic Myriad

Heirlooms of Utility and Domesticity in a Transitional Old Town San Diego

an analysis of the Mexican pottery recovered in the excavations on Block 408 in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, California

Benjamin D. O. Hanowell

(CSU Sacramento)

what s with the title
What’s with the title?
  • Myriad
    • Comprised of numerous diverse elements or facets (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • Heirlooms
    • Remnants of fading traditions and trends
  • Utility and Domesticity
    • Spanish Colonial Era storage vessels
    • Loza ordinaria / loza corriente (functional, glazed tableware, storage vessels, and cooking ware)
    • Entrefino grade Mexican majolica(mid-range tin-enameled tableware)
    • Emphasis upon domesticity: relative prevalence of tableware vs. dearth of storage and cooking ware
  • Transition
    • Colonial government  independent Mexican government  American Period
    • Effects of burgeoning market capitalism and the Industrial Age
    • Critique of often linear interpretation of California history
the questions
The Questions
  • If these are Mexican Republic Era deposits, then why is Mexican pottery the least represented?
  • Why is tableware more prevalent than cooking and storage ware?
the method
The Method
  • Typological analysis using both emic and etic types
  • Emphasis on vessel function and construction quality in the absence of vessel form evidence (small sherds)
  • Contextual analysis: OTSD history and the broader historical trends affecting the area
the answers consumer choice and exploitation of native laborers
The Answers:Consumer Choice and Exploitation of Native Laborers
  • Influx of imported, industrially manufactured, exotic British earthenwares (which had flooded the market) downplay of wares imported from Mexico
  • Dependence upon/convenience of exploiting Indian servant labor  emphasis upon Native cooking and storage wares (cheaper and more familiar to servant workers)

Marxist POV:

familiar pattern of industrial consumer market capitalism

overall vessel and sherd counts





Porcelain (most

Native American




Overall Vessel and Sherd Counts
spanish olive jars jarros ollas de aceite
Spanish Olive Jars (jarros / ollas de aceite)
  • Also known historically as: tinajas, botijas, botijuelas, botijas perluteras
  • Used initially for storage and shipping (primarily for liquids) from Spain to the New World and within the colonies
  • Reused for storage, transport, cooking, and washing (though mainly for liquid storage)
  • “Late Style”, characterized by variability in vessel form and a light, compact paste with very little temper
    • Date range: 1780-1800
  • Remnant of Spanish Period
  • Rareness is due to shift from mercantilism to consumer market
burnished bru ido ware
Burnished (Bruñido) Ware
  • Burnishing: forceful rubbing of (usually exterior) surface during final drying stages
    • Produces smoothness and, especially in pottery of Tonalá and Coyotepec, Mexico, a high sheen
  • Represented at Block 408
    • Loza de agua: colloquial Tonaltecan terminology for liquid storage vessels


    • Loza de fuego: colloquial Tonaltecan terminology for cooking and dry storage vessels
      • Red-slip usually indicates utilitarian vessels (cooking pots, casseroles, mugs, water bottles)
      • Aromatic (gives off sweet odor when wet)
    • Unidentified aromatic earthenware
      • Aromatic, like Tonaltecan sherds
      • Burnished, but not to high sheen
      • Another Mexican bruñido pottery tradition? Burnished Native American ceramic?
possible burnished ware forms
Possible Burnished Ware Forms

Loza de fuego cooking ware

Loza de agua utilitarian bottle and pitcher

mexican lead glaze loza ordinaria loza corriente
Mexican Lead Glaze(Loza Ordinaria/Loza Corriente)
  • Lead glazing technology imported from Spain in 16th century, then spread widely through the Spanish colonies
  • Glazing involves mixture of lead salts, sand, and sodium or potassium salts
  • Cultural names for lead-glazed utilitarian vessels:
    • Loza amarilla (yellow)
    • Loza roja (red)
    • Loza prieta (dark)
  • Comprises tableware, storage and cooking wares; tableware most numerous
  • Local production? (so-called Alta California Lead Glaze; pending further analysis)
  • Tin-enamel technology
    • Often made to imitate Asian porcelain in surface attributes
    • 1550: pottery introduced to New Spain
  • More accurate terms for Mexican majolica:
    • From 17th & 18th century colonial requisitions: loza blanca, loza de puebla
    • Popular Mexican terms for Mexican majolica: talavera, talavera de Puebla, talavera poblana (after Talavera de la Reina, Spain)
majolica phases a chronology of stylistic prevalence
Majolica Phases: a chronology of stylistic prevalence
  • Puebla Tradition Majolica Phase: Puebla I
    • Puebla Blue on White Phase
      • Heavily inspired by blue on white Asian ceramics
      • Date Range: 1653-1750
majolica phases
Majolica Phases
  • Puebla Tradition Majolica Phase: Puebla II
    • Elaborated Puebla Blue on White Phase
      • Puebla I designs accentuated with dark brown or black lines
      • Date Range: 1750-1780
majolica phases20
Majolica Phases
  • The Puebla Tradition Majolicas (Puebla III)
    • Experimental Phase
      • Implementation of new colors into well-known Puebla patterns (usually as substitution)
      • Date Range: 1780-1800
majolica phases21
Majolica Phases
  • The Puebla Tradition Majolicas (Puebla IV)
    • Italianate-Talavera Revival Phase
      • Revival of more liberal color scheme (mostly oranges, browns, greens, and yellows), on Puebla Blue-on-white layouts
      • Date Range: 1800-1830
majolica phases22
Majolica Phases
  • The Puebla Tradition Majolicas (Puebla V)
    • Colored Ground Phase
      • Proliferation of colored grounds as so-called Chinese Popular (Goggin, 1968) decorative tradition waned
      • Date Range: 1830-1870s(?)
Majolica Phase Distribution






  • Heirlooms: figuratively (and also literally?)
    • Material remnants of Spanish Colonial Era in Mexican Republic Era context
    • Decreasing presence of Mexican wares as British wares flood the market
  • Material Evidence of Transition
    • Spanish Colonialism  Mexican Republic  American Period
    • Mercantilism  Industrialism/Capitalism
  • Consumer choice
    • Aesthetic preference + economic concerns  importation of mass-produced goods from abroad + exploitation of Native manufacturing
Special thanks to…

Larry Felton

Glenn Farris

Eloise Barter

Barb Voss

Russ Skowronek

Donna Seifert


Trine Johansen