ATOCHA 1622 SHIPWRECK! SIX NESTED MESTIZO SILVER BOXES ARTIFACT
Set of Six Nested Mestizo Silver Boxes recovered from the Atocha 1622 Shipwreck!
These are without question some of the most important artifacts to have been recovered from the Atocha. In fact this type of artifact is unknown except from the context of this specific shipwreck. Mestizo silverwares (Mestizo was the word used by the Spanish to denote a person of mixed Spanish and indigenous or Amerindian blood.) These items reveal iconographic motifs that shows quite well the two disparate cultures of the Native American and Spanish coming together and mixing (enculturation process).
In fact, there was aboard the Atocha one named Mestizo (being one of the named deceased shows a great deal of prestige) a Diego de Illescas. Could these items have been his? Or did they serve as a sort of souvenir of the New World being carried back to Spain as curiosities and nothing more? Whatever their intended function the blending of the two cultures reflected in these pieces makes them unique in the World.
The artistic work executed on the set of six boxes is certainly of the class we have identified as Mestizo. Some of the motifs used can be found on items from Andean Amerindian gravesites dating back centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. However, unlike the more ancient Pre - Columbian pieces which were decorated with strictly floral. and animalistic designs we have instead an object whose form is identical to the more ancient styles but whose artistic motifs have been impacted by the advent of the Spanish. In the example below one can see the double headed "eagle" One of the symbols of the Spanish Monarchy under the Hapsburgs.
The Box pictured on the right has what has been described as a birdman motif, with the body of a bird and the head of a human this symbol has been thought to represent the Holy Spirit (which is often represented ichnographically in the form of a dove). It is also theorized that it is the Andean Amerindian symbol for luck.
This set of six boxes includes one that is badly deteriorated by the action of the sea through the centuries. This exterior box provided a cathodic protection to the remaining five boxes making their condition near pristine.
While some of the symbolism on Mestizo objects from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha is only poorly understood these items are unique in the world.
New World being carried back to Spain as curiosities and nothing more? Whatever their intended function the blending of the two cultures reflected in these pieces makes them unique in the World.