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Terra sigillata, Germany, 1501-1700

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Terra sigillata, or “sealed earth”, was a clay-like soil believed to have medicinal qualities which was first used on the Greek island of Lemnos in around 500 BCE. It was usually prepared into cakes which were stamped with a seal of authenticity and then dried.

The clay was crushed into a powder and taken with liquids or made into a paste and smeared on the body. Terra sigillata was believed to fight against a number of diseases including plague and was highly sought after during epidemics. An increased demand needed an increased supply and sources were found in Hungary, France, Germany, Malta, Sienna and Silesia. It is shown here with two other examples (A656687 and A656695).

maker: Unknown maker

Place made: Goldberg, Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany


Credit: Science Museum, London

Free to use with attribution