A fisherman working the shallow water off of Parris Island early this year discovered two ceramic fragments carrying pieces of a story hundreds of years old.
The Spanish olive jar was delivered to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, which has jurisdiction of the nearby waters. Oyster shells, barnacles, tube worm casings and plants clung to the jar, suggesting it had not been exposed for long, an archaeologist’s report released this week said.
Hurricane Matthew might have dislodged the jar in October.
The 15-liter jars were mass-produced in Spain from 1580 until 1680, making dating this particular jar difficult. Spanish explorers used the containers to tote a variety of goods ranging from bullets to olive oil.
Pinpointing the exact date of the jar is difficult because of the wide period they were produced, the archaeologist’s report said.
At a University of South Carolina laboratory, archaeologists scraped away plants, chipped away barnacles and soaked the jar in mild acid for 11 weeks to remove the remaining growth.
Similar jars were used by the Spanish at Santa Elena, the settlement established in 1566 on what is now Parris Island. Most of the town’s jars were of a smaller variety. But the recent find artifact falls within the range of sizes used by the Spanish explorers.
“The olive jar could easily date to the occupation of Santa Elena, but there is no reason as to why it could not date to a century later,” S.C. Instutute of Archaeology and Anthropology archaeologist Heathley Johnson wrote in the June report about the artifact.
A large piece of the jar cracked off when it was pulled from the marsh, and the base is missing. But the jar has been preserved and added to Parris Island’s archaeological collection.
The Parris Island Museum hopes to display the jar, the depot’s archaeologist Kim Zawacki said.
“How wonderful that the largely untold story of early European exploration and settlements in our community continues to emerge,” Santa Elena chairman Andy Beall said in a statement. “This exciting discovery adds to what is known about our local history.”