Fragments of the lip and wall of a pot
Straight from Saintonge
Fragments of ceramic artifacts are certainly the most common materials found on archaeological digs in Quebec. These everyday objects come in a huge variety and are one of the most useful materials for dating and interpretation purposes. Some types of ceramics were very popular and are frequent finds. Others are more rare, such as certain fragments that we have turned up in a number of plots associated with Fort Ville-Marie.
The potsherds in question attracted archaeologists’ attention right from the first years of the Field School. They are generally tiny earthenware fragments, with a fabric varying from white to light buff and a clear glaze, decorated with bands or streaks of green, yellowish, brown or purple oxides. These thin-walled containers, sometimes ornamented with moulded decorations, were very carefully made, if one compares them with the majority of common European and local pottery pieces.
It was difficult for us to decide on the shape or origin of most of our objects, in our first years of research. We first thought that they came from northern France, more specifically Beauvais. Some doubts remained, however, since our fragments did not exactly match the pottery produced in that region.
Thanks to our research, discussions and recent finds in the soil of Fort Ville-Marie, we can now say that they are potsherds from earthenware objects produced in France, more specifically in the Saintonge region, in the 17th century.
The Field School collection contains many sherds of this kind of pottery. The identifiable objects include the rim of a bowl with a moulded decoration, some pots decorated with coloured bands and, even more unusual, a sherd from a vessel used for carrying holy water during religious ceremonies. It was found in the soil from the founding of Ville-Marie in 1642, and ties in perfectly with the missionary aims of the initial settlement.
Fragment of a vessel used for carrying holy water
Very few examples of this kind of pottery have been found in the Montréal region to date, since so few archaeological digs have been done at mid-17th century sites. Some examples have turned up in the Quebec City region, in particular at the sites of Champlain’s “habitation” and the Château Saint-Louis.