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Chinese Porcelain and Seventeenth-Century Port Royal, Jamaica

Helen Catherine Dewolf
Dissertation: May 1998
Chair: Hamilton


This dissertation examines 17th-century Chinese porcelain found in Port Royal, Jamaica, during the various land and underwater excavations carried out since the late 1950s. The focus of the study is on the artifacts recovered during the underwater excavations conducted from 1981-1990 by Texas A&M University, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The presence of the porcelain artifacts, their type, their use, and their exportation into Europe and the New World are discussed.

The possible significance of the location and association of these artifacts within the archaeological remains of the 17th-century city of Port Royal is also explored. Ultimately this dissertation presents conclusions as to the trade networks used to bring porcelain to Port Royal, Jamaica, and the possible reflection status these artifacts may exhibit.

The role of the documentary evidence found in the Jamaica Archives, as well as records available from contemporaneous trade centers is also addressed. Journals, diaries, and letters of various individuals of the period supplement the written and archaeological records to provide the personal observations of those associated with trade, politics, and daily life in the 17th century.

A comparison of the various types of ceramics found in the Port Royal excavations and an analysis of the contemporaneous documentary records of Jamaica assist in providing a context in which to view the Chinese porcelain artifacts found. The wills and inventories of numerous inhabitants of Jamaica, in general, and Port Royal, specifically, provide the majority of documentary evidence researched.

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