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Prehistoric Texas Main

Artifacts

Unglazed earthenware jars, or ollas, may have been used to store water or dry goods.
Unglazed earthenware jars, or ollas, may have been used to store water or dry goods. TARL Collections.
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Majolica plate-bowl from the site. Majolica and other fine-glazed wares were imported to the rancho settlements from Mexico.
Majolica plate-bowl from the site. Majolica and other fine glazed wares were imported to the rancho settlements from Mexico. TARL Collections.

Among the stone ruins and scattered across the surface of the site, archeologists found a variety of artifacts from eighteenth-century rancho life. There was an array of pottery cooking vessels and tableware of varied designs. Small personal objects such as a child's whistle, marbles buttons, and jewelry are a reminder of the families that lived there. A small child-sized bowl with an "X" inscribed on the bottom also was found.

Many of the artifacts are general household items used in everyday rancho life. The ceramics are mostly unglazed utilitarian ware, such as jars and pots used to hold water and store dry goods. There are also small bowls used for a variety of purposes, including cooking over an open fire. Many of these unglazed ceramics were handmade, probably by experienced local potters. The glazed wares were also utilitarian in nature, but they were used as pitchers, mixing bowls, and sometimes cooking vessels.

The finer red and black glazed ware and majolica of various colors and designs were used as tableware—dishes, bowls, cups, and serving dishes. All of these glazed ceramics were imported from various places in Mexico, and were brought to the Santander area on mule train. Chocolateras, or chocolate cups, were extremely popular in Spanish Texas, and were painted with brown and black swirl designs. These cups were also imported from northern Mexico. An unusual variant of this design is a chocolatera that was glazed with green rather than the usual clear glaze.

Majolica, or glazed enamelware, in a variety of patterns and colors were found at the site. These fragments were from bowls and other tableware. a, Puebla Blue on White; b-c, San Elizario; d, Aranama Polychrome; e, porcelain; f, Huetjotzingo Blue on White; g, Puebla Green on White; h, Aranama Polychrome.
Majolica, or glazed enamelware, in a variety of patterns and colors were found at the site. TARL Collections.
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Children's toys, including ceramic whistles (b,c) and marbles (d) were found at the rancho site, along with a child-sized pottery bowl marked on the bottom with an "X."
Children's toys, including ceramic whistles and marbles were found at the rancho site, along with a child-sized pottery bowl marked on the bottom with an "X." TARL Collections.
Fragments of typical brown glazed wares, likely from utilitarian vessels. TARL Collections.
Chocolateras, or chocolate cups, were popular in Spanish Texas. TARL Collections.
Fragments of a green-glazed mixing bowl. TARL Collections.
The use of these flat, oval stones is unknown; they may have been handtools for grinding or even gaming pieces.
The use of these flat, oval stones is unknown; they may have been handtools for grinding or even gaming pieces. TARL Collections.
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A variety of metal objects, including copper and iron fragments, were found at the rancho.
A variety of metal objects, including copper and iron fragments, were found at the rancho. TARL Collections.
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A group of smooth, oval-shaped stones is somewhat unusual; the purpose or use for these is unknown. Some look like hammerstones used for making chipped-stone tools, but they have no impact marks on the edges or tips. Most are flat, round or oval in shape, and vary in size from 2 to 10 cm. All are hand-sized and may have been used as smoothing stones for making pottery. During the pottery-making process, potters typically smooth the surfaces of clay vessels with a stone to even out the thickness and create a burnished surface before firing the pot. On the other hand, the stones may have been gaming pieces.

Metal artifacts were scarce, but several pieces of iron and scraps of copper were found; these may have been used to repair copper pots or other items. Some of the iron fragments may have been gun parts. A few tacks were found but no nails or other construction materials were found, which is unusual for a site with existing buildings.

In the midden and in the house floors, investigators uncovered a large quantity of mussel shell, animal bones (cow, horse, sheep, and javelina), and charred corn cobs. These items give us an idea of what the diet of these early ranchers may have been as well as indications of their resourcefulness. Mussels may have been a food source in hard times, but the shell itself was probably used to make lime. Lime was an ingredient in making plaster and mortar, and it also probably was used to repair cracks in pottery.

The photographs of artifacts on these pages were taken by Milton Bell. Artifacts and records of the Leal rancho excavations are housed at TARL.

Chocolateras, or chocolate cups, were popular in Spanish Texas.
Buttons from the Leal Rancho. TARL Collections.
Grinding implements such as these manos and metate fragments were used for grinding corn.
Grinding implements such as these manos and metate fragments were used for grinding corn. TARL Collections.
Mussel shells such as these may be remnants of a meal or were saved as an ingredient (lime) for making plaster.
Mussel shells such as these may be remnants of a meal or were used as an ingredient (lime) for making plaster. TARL Collections.