Author: Terry Williams, Conservator
When one thinks of pirates imbibing, the normal mental picture is bawdy singing and swinging tankards made of pottery, pewter, and even silver. With about half the site excavated, we haven’t found any objects identified as traditional tankard components. However, if you readjust your imagination and insert the gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet, or the French officers who were aboard La Concorde, you might picture the drinking vessels we do have: wine glasses, also called stemware. Evidence for four distinct pieces of stemware have been recovered.
The first evidence for stemware was found in concretion QAR638.000. This small concretion was discovered with a wine glass fragment protruding from it. The stem of the glass is molded, with four sides decorated in crowns and diamonds. This unique glass was produced to mark the coronation of King George I in 1714, and one other surviving example in the Victoria and Albert Museum is even marked with “God Save King George.”
QAR906.002 was still in concretion when it was identified. Remember that artifacts must have a metal component to register on an x-ray film. Fortunately for us, George Ravenscroft had experimented with different materials and concentrations, developing a leaded glass with at least 20% lead oxide in 1674. Leaded glass was beautiful, elegant, heavy, and importantly to us, visible in x-ray. Equally amazing is that even this much of the glass survived since it is surrounded by three cannon balls and one bar shot!
The stem is often key to determining its date of manufacture. In describing the artifacts, we use the terms baluster (a stem having a gradual swelling near the top or bottom) and knop (a bulbous component of the stem). In addition to the first two objects, previously described, we also have QAR1457.003, a decorated knop from a large stemware glass. Research indicates this is perhaps a runner style or toastmaster glass which dates to 1685-1725. A similar knop is in the Museum of London.
Our final piece of stemware is QAR3431.002, with an inverted baluster. It is leaded glass with a thick joint at the base of its conical bowl that leads to a rounded knop. A similar glass, although with a more rounded knop, is also found in the Museum of London and dates from 1701-1710.
With half the ship still to be excavated, who knows what else we will find. One thing we can be pretty sure of though – whoever was using this fine stemware, they were enjoying themselves!
-MacLeod, Christine. 1987. “Accident or Design? George Ravenscroft’s Patent and the Invention of Lead-Crystal Glass,” Technology and Culture 28(4):776-803.
-McNaughton, Linda and Mark Wilde-Ramsing. 2008. Preliminary Glassware and Bottle Analysis from Shipwreck 31CR314, Queen Anne’s Revenge Site. QAR Research Report and Bulletin Series, QAR-R-08-02.
-QAR638.001, stemware attributed to the coronation of George I from site 31CR314 (Queen Anne’s Revenge/La Concorde). Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Stemware (QAR906.002) removed from concretion from site 31CR314. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Stemware knop (QAR1457.003) from site 31CR314. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.