Nuestra Señora de Atocha (1622)
This 10 cm tall, “sponge-silver” cone recovered from the 1622 Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha is a bit of a mystery. It bears the cast letters MAR and IHS, acronyms for Mary and Jesus, suggesting a religious function. But other, similar cones from the Atocha have only repeating geometric designs. Another is cast with the letters POTOSY, tying it to the Andean mining town of Potosí. Interestingly, this piece and the others are all similar in shape to larger silver cones called “piñas,” which are also made of sponge-silver – the initial form of the metal after being recovered from ore in the colonial mining process. Silver was the major product of Potosí, and piñas would have been everywhere there. Potosí was also the source of most of Atocha’s silver. Were these smaller cones designed to mimic the larger Potosí piñas? Perhaps they are nothing more than stylized miniatures of the most important product of an influential mining town – and ones which just happened to make nice souvenirs.
10.3 cm H , Item (Overall)