Ancient Tamarind Jar Links NH to Caribbean
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Written by Strawbery Banke archive

212tamarind00.jpgStrawbery Banke Presents
HISTORIC PORTSMOUTH #212

The tamarind jar pictured above was discovered during an archaeological excavation in Puddle Dock. These large unglazed containers were made in the West Indies to ship the bitter fruit of the tamarind that was fermented into a popular beverage in the 18th century. (continued below)

 

 

 

HISTORIC PHOTOS of the Greater Portsmouth Area appear here weekl

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This jar, scientifically excavated, offers clues to Portsmouth’s early connections to Africa and the Caribbean. It is a particularly intriguing artifact in the Strawbery Banke Artifact Collection. Numerous fragments of late 18th century Tamarind Jar were recovered during the 1975-1978 excavation of the Marshall Pottery Site, operated by potter Samuel Marshall 1737-1749.

212tamarind01.jpgTamarind trees, with their feathery leaves, are native to tropical East Africa. They were transported and then cultivated in the West Indies. The Tamarind fruit is a flat, fuzzy, tan, hand shaped seedpod with a sour, brown gooey paste. One food product made from the bitter fruit, after it was fermented and mixed with sugar, was a tamarind beverage with a sweet and sour flavor. The recovery location however at the Marshall Pottery Site suggests it was reused as a garden planter.

The significance of the vessel relates to the evidence it provides of the trade network between Portsmouth and the Caribbean. It also raises questions. Do the vessels suggest purchase and consumption of an exotic fruit product and who were the consumers? The site was occupied by the Marshalls, as well as their black slaves, Mercer, Bess, and Adam.

Similar tamarind jars were recovered during the 1976 archaeological investigation of Parting Ways in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a free black community of Revolutionary War veterans. One 18" vessel was found at the end of a grave, presumed to be burial of Quandey Quash, a former slave freed in 1786 (died 1806) and the father of Quamony Quash. This artifact and other evidence from Parting Ways have been interpreted as evidence of maintained cultural links to Africa. (Info courtesy of Strawbery Banke archaeologist Sheila Charles, 2008)

This image from the book STRAWBERY BANKE:
A Seaport Museum 400 Years in the Making
by J. Dennis Robinson
(c) Strawbery Banke Museum Collection

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