Artifact Spotlight — Red Burnished Ware

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
September 23, 2019
Red pieces of ceramic sherds
Approx. Date of Artifact: 18th Century

These ceramic sherds were recovered from excavations in and around the Long Barrack. This type, called Red Burnished Ware in Texas, appears at several of the main Spanish Colonial Sites including the San Antonio Missions, Presidio Bexar, Mission Espiritu Santo, Mission Rosario, Mission Refugio, Presidio La Bahia, and Mission San Lorenzo.

This type of ceramic is unique in the fact that they are often red in color, can exhibit a high gloss, but do not have a glaze. The vessels are made by hand. A thin slip is applied and then highly polished. Matte areas are left unpolished leaving unique designs.

On some vessels, large areas are left unpolished, with spirals and curved designed burnished. On other vessels, the majority of the vessel is highly polished with the spirals appearing as matte.

During firing, the burnished portions of the vessel often spall, leaving little pock-marks along the surface.

Most of the sherds encountered at Spanish Colonial sites represent small bowls and jars. Researchers have indicated that Red Burnished Ware was manufactured in central Mexico, but an exact location has not been determined. Similar to the other wares manufactured in Mexico, these vessels would have made their way to San Antonio by mule train during the mission time period.