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The Big Reveal: Archaeological Mystery Objects

Last week we posted three mystery objects excavated at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, along with polls so you could guess the answers.   Below are the correct identifications of these objects.   How did you do?


Dried ink for calligraphy.  These small containers of dried ink can be wet with a brush, producing a black ink used for writing Japanese or Chinese characters. These objects were excavated from a trash pit associated with the early-twentieth-century occupation of the Presidio site by Japanese Americans.


Bale seal. Bales seals were in use throughout Europe going back to the medieval period to identify the content and quality of parcels, batches of textile, and bales of goods.  This bale seal was excavated from a trash pit associated with the comandante’s residence adjacent to the chapel site.


Dispenser for powdered Tabasco.  Marked with the company brand name on the bottom, this ceramic shaker shaped like a chili pepper was used to dispense a powdered form of the spicy condiment.  Tabasco brand products have been manufactured by the McIlhenny Company in Avery Island, Louisianna since 1868. Still in use in some areas of the Southern  United States, powdered Tabasco is not readily available on the market today, and this ceramic shaker is extremely rare.

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