Thursday, May 18, 2017

Feeding the Luna Expedition: What did mid-16th-century Spaniards normally eat?

John E. Worth
© 2017 UWF Archaeology Institute


As we begin the 2017 summer archaeological field school season (May 23 – July 28), it’s a good time to start thinking about the original context the 16th-century materials we will be finding as we conduct excavations at the 1559-1561 settlement of Tristán de Luna on Pensacola Bay.  A substantial portion of the artifacts found at the Luna Settlement site relate to food, and its consumption, preparation, and storage.  This includes the abundant evidence for broken ceramics, dominated by the round-bottom, narrow-mouthed liquid storage containers archaeologists call olive jars (Luna’s people called them botijas), along with flat-bottomed, wide-mouthed storage jars (tinajas), Tin-enameled serving ware destined for tabletop use, including deep plates (platos), bowls (escudillas), small basins (lebrillos), and cups (tazas), as well as pitchers (jarros, picheles) and jars for conserves (orzas, botes) have been found (see sources below for more information on Spanish ceramics of the era). In addition, a range of plain glazed and unglazed ceramic containers of assorted sizes and shapes (ollas, jarras, cazuelas, lebrillos, cantaros, etc.) used for a variety of functions including heating, mixing, soaking, washing, and serving both liquid and solid foods have been recovered.  Other items associated with food preparation are also sometimes found, including fragments of grinding stones (manos and metates or piedras de moler).

We might also expect to find fragments of copper or iron kitchen implements including cauldrons and kettles (calderas, calderos, cazos), frying pans (sartenes), roasting grates and tripods (parrillas, rejas, trebedes), as well as mixing and serving spoons (cucharas), funnels and measures (embudos, foniles, medidas), and even mortars and pestles (almirezes con manos).  Large Spanish bricks (ladrillos) may be found in association with cooking hearths. Some of these items have already been recovered from the nearby Emanuel Point shipwrecks, and we expect to find at least fragments of them on the land site. 

We have already found food remains in a sealed Luna-era pit context including shellfish such as oyster and crown conch, as well as a deer antler. Soil samples already taken from other promising contexts await processing in the lab, and may eventually reveal tiny bones or charred plant remains that will all contribute to a better understanding of what people were actually eating at Santa María de Ochuse.
 
Profilels of Common 16th-Century Spanish Vessel Types
Profiles of Common 16th-Century Spanish Ceramic Vessel Types



Part of the archaeological work at the Luna settlement will involve analyzing the scattered trash left behind by the hundreds of Spaniards, Aztec Indians, and Africans, including men, women, and children, to develop an understanding of what these temporary inhabitants of Pensacola Bay ate to keep themselves alive before and after the 1559 hurricane that ruined most of their original supplies. We also want to know how they obtained and prepared those foods, whether from local animals and plants or from relief ships from Cuba and Mexico.  Interpreting food related activites from the material traces will require a sound understanding of what a typical mid-16th-century Spaniard normally ate both in Spain and in Spain’s New World colonies, and how the Spanish normally stored, prepared, cooked, and served those foods during the course of their daily lives.  We also need to recognize any variations to the pattern that may reflect the presence of Aztec Indians and enslaved Africans living among them, or dietary accommodations already assimilated by Spanish colonists living in the New World.

There are many ways to explore Spanish foodways and its associated material culture in the mid-16th-century using diverse historical sources, and we will be highlighting several of these in some of our blog posts this summer.  In central Spain, for example, account books from the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso near Madrid dating to the third quarter of the 16th century reveal a relatively diverse array of foods consumed at the residence hall.  A sample month from November of 1570 (found in Libro 781, Universidades, Archivo Histórico Nacional, Madrid, Spain), includes the following food items:


Foods Served at the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, November 1570
Proteins
Vegetables/
Starches
Fruits
Condiments
Liquids/
Oils
goat
sheep
pork
tripe
sea bream
sardines
other fish
cheese
eggs
garlic
onions
carrots
radishes
capers
rice
apples
oranges
raisins
salt
black pepper
sugar
cinnamon
mustard
diverse spices
wine
vinegar
olive oil
lard
milk
honey


The diet includes a number of items that would have been eaten fresh, and presumably grown locally, since they were difficult to store or transport.  For Spain’s New World colonies during the mid-16th-century, however, many Spanish foodstuffs would have to have been salted, in the case of meats, and transported in bulk across the Atlantic in barrels, boxes, ceramic containers, baskets, and sacks.  This resulted in a more limited range of available staples for passengers or residents in far-flung colonial locations.

Let us take a look at supply records from a single fleet that sailed from Spain in 1558, the year before the Luna expedition set sail (found in Legajo 282, Contaduría, Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain).  The four largest vessels, all cargo ships called naos, were named San Cosme y San Damián, La Concepción, La Magdalena, and Santiago, and were part of a fleet of armed vessels under admiral don Alvaro de Bazán charged with protecting the annual Spanish fleet arriving from the New World.  Fortunately, we have complete records of not just all the food loaded onto these vessels for their voyage, but also the equipment and supplies that were loaded to prepare, cook, serve, and consume this very same food, giving us a snapshot of both the utensils and the food used by Spanish sailors in the mid-16th century.


Food for 1558 Fleet (4 vessels)
Item
Amount
Unit
Hardtack, Ordinary
50188
kilos
Hardtack, White
460
kilos
Fava Beans
1748
kilos
Chickpeas
1110
kilos
Rice
767
kilos
Garlic
860
strings
Chestnuts
555
kilos
Cheese
3095
kilos
Beef, Salted
8927
kilos
Pork, Salted
2156
kilos
Tuna
6257
kilos
Wine from Jérez
79503
liters
Wine from Cazalla
2065
liters
Vinegar
4195




Spanish diets of this era usually included grains, vegetables and starches, proteins including meats and cheese, assorted solid and liquid condiments, and wine as a standard beverage.  For ease of storage and transport on long ship voyages, the 1558 fleet included a huge amount of wheat flour baked into hardtack, fava beans, chickpeas, and rice, salted beef and pork, tuna, and cheese, along with garlic, chestnuts, vinegar, and olive oil, with a large volume of Spanish wine.



Food-Related Equipment on 1558 Fleet (4 vessels)
Item (English)
Total
Avg. per Ship
Pot, Large
5
1.25
Pot, Medium
2
0.5
Pot, Small
3
0.75
Cauldron, Large Copper
4
1
Jug, Copper (half arroba for wine)
8
2
Funnel
34
8.5
Funnel, Tinplate
6
1.5
Funnel, Wood
1
0.25
Measure, Copper (azumbre, half azumbre, quartillo, half quartillo)
29
7.25
Spoons, Iron
16
4
Oil Cruet, Tinplate
48
12
Ceramics: Half Arroba
30
7.5
Ceramics: Quarter Arroba
30
7.5
Ceramics: jarro
78
19.5
Ceramics: jarillo
60
15
Ceramics: plato
3
0.75
Ceramics: plato and escudillas, white
230
57.5
Ceramics: plato, yellow
270
67.5
Ceramics: escudilla, yellow
342
85.5
Ceramics: taza
6
1.5
Mat
100
25
Pail
45
11.25
Olive Jar
520
130
Cask
192
48
Butt
18
4.5
Barrel
48
12
Barrel Head
20
5
Firewood (cartloads)
61
15.25
Axe, Iron
30
7.5


The list of equipment loaded to prepare and serve this food makes it clear that most cooking was communal, and mostly in large metal pots or cauldrons, of which only a small number were present on each ship.  The galley area hearth would have been lined with large bricks (ladrillos). Plenty of water containers and firewood were required as well. Measuring out portions of wine and other liquids and prepared food was accomplished using metal and wood measuring containers and funnels, portioned using Spanish colonial-era weights and measures such as arrobas and azumbres (see modern equivalents online here).  Prepared food was then consumed using tableware dominated by soup-plates (platos) and bowls (escudillas).  In the case of the 1558 fleet, most of this tableware was ceramic, called loza by16th-century Spaniards (what archaeologists call majolica, most appropriately pronounced ma-Y-olica because of the Italian origin of the word maiolica), but other records indicate that wooden tableware was perhaps even more commonly used on sailing vessels. 

Any parts of this material assemblage that were broken or lost during the two-year duration of Luna’s Santa María de Ochuse settlement, and were durable enough to survive more than 450 years in the ground, could form part of the artifactual traces we will find during archaeological excavations at the site.  We may also find physical traces of the food items themselves.  By carefully recording and studying the types and numbers of artifact fragments found in each area of the settlement, and estimating the original assemblage of ceramic vessels and other utensils associated with food-related activities carried out there, we hope to be able to add considerable depth to what we know about how the members of the Luna expedition adapted and survived while stranded on Pensacola Bay after the 1559 hurricane, giving us insight into the earliest multi-year European settlement in the United States.

While shipboard diet was obviously only a subset of the broader Spanish Iberian diet during the mid-16th-century, it nonetheless reflects exactly what was the norm on vessels traveling to, from, and between all the myriad colonies in Spain’s growing mid-16th-century New World empire, particularly on voyages of exploration that relied on maritime transport to begin their terrestrial activities.  Nevertheless, by the 1550s new staple foods had already been introduced to Spanish explorers and colonists, and to greater or lesser extents had already been assimilated within the broader Spanish dietary pattern in the New World.  We will turn our attention to this in the next blog post.

Selected References


Deagan, Kathleen
1987    Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean, 1500-1800, Volume 1: Ceramics, Glassware and Beads. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. (ISBN 978-0874743937) 

Lister, Florence C., and Robert H. Lister
1982    Sixteenth Century Maiolica Pottery in the Valley of Mexico.  Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona, Number 39.  University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Marken, Mitchell W.
1994    Pottery from Spanish Shipwrecks, 1500-1800.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

South, Stanley, Russell K. Skowronek, and Richard E. Johnson
1988    Spanish Artifacts from Santa Elena.  Occasional Papers of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, Anthropological Studies 7.  Columbia, South Carolina. Online Here

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