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Artifacts

British Earthenwares currently provide our best tools for dating these deposits. Manufacturers marks, as well as the overall stylistic makeup of the assemblage argue strongly for an 1830s and 1840s deposition of the deepest deposits. The ceramic styles represented are the classics for this period. The bulk of the earthenwares are transfer prints, including a variety of lighter blues as well as the reds, greens, purples and other colors expected after about 1830. There are also a variety of painted Staffordshire wares, as well as smaller quantities of annular ware, edge decorated ware, sponged wares, yellowwares, and undecorated earthenwares.

Chinese Porcelain is represented as well. Several patterns, including Canton and Fitzhugh, are common in collections from the Eastern United States and Europe, reflecting established trades routes and market tastes. However, other patterns found at the site are much less well known in Euro-American spheres, but are widely reported from Southeast Asia to the east coast of Africa (cf. Willets and Lim 1981:1-16; McClure Mudge 1986:185-189; Christie's Amsterdam B.V. 1995). In recent years, we have found that these same patterns, including Sino-Islamic, Peach and Fungus, and Om, are also widely distributed in early California sites. Our impression is that they are most frequent in 1830s deposits, and may become useful horizon markers for that period.

Commerce with Mexico is also demonstrated in the ceramic collection, although Mexican Majolicas and Lead Glazed Wares occur in much smaller numbers than either British or Chinese ceramics. The scarcity of Majolica at this site is in keeping with deposition during the 1830s and 1840s, as importation appears to have dropped off sharply after the Mexican War of Independence from 1810 to 1821 (May 1972:30; Barnes 1972:4). A number of common Majolica styles are present (cf. Cohen-Williams 1992), but the sherds are generally small, making exact identification of the patterns difficult. There are several possible explanations for the presence of Majolicas in our assemblage. We know that Majolicas are abundant in the archaeological deposits at the presidio (Jack Williams, personal communication, 1995). The Silvas-McCoy Site sherds might represent heirloom pieces retained by the families who moved down from the presidio to the river terrace in the 1820s and 1830s. Another possibility is that the tiny Majolica sherds were introduced to the site through reuse of building materials from the presidio or elsewhere. Artifacts are often incorporated into adobe bricks, the disintegration of which could introduce these older objects into more recent deposits.

Southern California (or Tizon) Brownware occurs in considerable quantities. These are unglazed wares, presumably of local manufacture, and are similar to those produced by Native Americans prior to Spanish colonization (cf. May 1978; Griset 1990). Vessels seem to be predominately ollas, although a few pieces may be from comales, or griddles. Many have heavy soot deposits on the exteriors, indicating use as cooking vessels.  These wares are widely distributed in the historic deposits of Old Town, convincing us that they were in widespread use during the historic period. Their large volume raises interesting questions regarding the economics of their manufacture and distribution.

Flaked and Ground Stone artifacts occur in significant quantities in the earlier archeological deposits, also suggesting the presence of Native Americans in the San Diego pueblo during the historic period. Most are simple flakes and cores, although there are also some pieces of flaked glass, including a small side-notched projectile point and what may be a drill. Several fragments of a carefully made steatite bowl and a large steatite bead were also recovered. Some of these Native American artifacts might be interpreted as remnants of a prehistoric site mixed with later deposits. We did recently record a late prehistoric site nearby, although no intact prehistoric deposits have been found on the Silvas-McCoy property. The small Glass Projectile Point, however, is certainly not pre-contact. It is more likely that these artifacts reflect the continuing presence of Native Americans in the Californio households of San Diego. We do know some Spanish soldiers married or lived with local Native American women, and that Native Americans served as cooks and laborers in many households (Mason 1978:413; Farris 1996:14-19.