Caribbean pirate life: tobacco, ale … and fine pottery
- On 02/09/2011
- In General Maritime History
Photo KSL Productions LLC
By Owen Jarus - Live Science
They smoked like the devil, drank straight from the bottle, annoyed the Spanish and had a fascination with fine pottery.
Oh, and they didn't use plates ... at least not ceramic ones.
Based in 18th-century Belize, they were real "Pirates of the Caribbean" and now new research by 21st-century archaeologists is telling us what their lives were like.
Their findings, detailed in a chapter in a recently published book, suggest that while these pipe-smoking men acted as stereotypical pirates would — drinking, smoking and stealing — they also kept fancy, impractical porcelain in their camps. The fine dinnerware may have been a way to imbue the appearance of upper-class society.
From historical records scientists had known that by 1720 these Caribbean pirates occupied a settlement called the "Barcadares," a name derived from the Spanish word for "landing place." Located 15 miles (24 kilometers) up the Belize River, in territory controlled by the Spanish, the site was used as an illegal logwood-cutting operation.
The records indicate that a good portion of its occupants were pirates taking a pause from life at sea.
Their living conditions were rustic to say the least. There were no houses, and the men slept on raised platforms with a canvas over them to keep the mosquitoes out. They hunted and gathered a good deal of their food.
Capt. Nathaniel Uring, a merchant seaman who was shipwrecked and spent more than four months with the inhabitants, described them in the book The Voyages and Travels of Captain Nathaniel Uring (reprinted in 1928 by Cassell and Company) as a "rude drunken crew, some which have been pirates, and most of them sailors."
Their "chief delight is in drinking; and when they broach a quarter cask or a hogshead of Bottle Ale or Cyder, keeping at it sometimes a week together, drinking till they fall asleep; and as soon as they awake at it again, without stirring off the place."
Eventually Captain Uring returned to Jamaica and, in 1726, published an account of his adventures.