Jar Physical Object

Accession Number
Alternate object names
Creation Date
circa 1620
A flat-bottomed, wide-mouthed earthenware jar from the wreck of the 1622 galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha is of a type called an orza in Spanish. It is 23 centimeters tall. The interior of the jar is covered with a thick, dark glaze (perhaps a degraded green, lead-based variety). This jar came from what is believed to have been a chest owned by the galleon’s pilot, as it also contained navigational instruments, as well as silver coins and gold chain. Divers reported that the jar contained a foul-smelling substance, though what it was was never determined.


23.34 cm H , Item (Overall)

20 cm Diameter

1.2 cm Thickness

Exhibition Label
Case Caption (2023):

 The Pilot

Aboard a Spanish ship, the pilot was third in seniority and would have had over sixteen years’ experience. His training included mathematics and celestial navigation. He also had to be familiar with charts of the overall voyage and those of the fleet’s destination in detail. He needed to understand changes in cloud patterns, shifts in ocean currents, and the quality of the ocean floor along different coastlines.

Aboard the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the pilot, Martin Jiminez, secured his chest carefully. It was still intact when it was discovered by Mel Fisher’s divers almost 400 years later. It held plotting dividers, a small sundial, a cross staff, a jar, gold and silver coins, and gold chains. Most importantly, it held the astrolabe shown here as well as four others. The astrolabe was used to determine latitude. Certainty about the ship’s latitude combined with the pilot’s other knowledge, meant that the ship would reach its destination safely and on time. 
Object Caption (2023): 

Earthenware (c.1620)
Gift of Jamestown Inc.

This jar was found in the chest owned by pilot, Martin Jimenez. Its interior is covered with a thick, dark glaze and the divers who brought it up from the wreck site said it contained a foul-smelling substance. This is likely to have been quinine. Quinine had recently become recognized as a cure for malaria, which Jiminez might have contracted during his travels. If so, this jar would have certainly had its place among his most precious possessions.