Sixteenth Century Candlestick
years ago, prior to current laws regarding human remains, collectors at site
1Ds1 found a sixteenth century brass candlestick.
The site is located in the central portion of the state of Alabama (fig.
1) in a large, relatively narrow bend of the Alabama River. The
candlestick was found on the northern end of the site, about 150 yards from the
Figure 1: Site of discovery of 16th Century Spanish Candlestick
The brass candlestick (fig. 2) is generally shaped like an automobile wheel, a pulley roller, or a capstan used on early sailing ships, hence the name “capstan style candle stick.” The actual candleholder is attached atop the base. The bottom of the base is approximately 6 inches in diameter. The entire artifact is approximately 5 and 1/2 inches in height.
Figure 2: 16th Century Candlestick from Central Alabama
Approx Height: 5 3/4 inches
The candlestick was found in an aboriginal burial
pit, oval in shape and measuring approximately 6 feet in length and 3 feet in
width. The candlestick was laying on its side approximately 4 inches from the
top of the skull of the burial. The skeletal remains were found at about 3 feet
below the present ground surface. The
burial was extended on the back with the cranium pointing to the north.
No data is available on the skeletal remains, which were in a good state
of preservation. Other than the
candlestick, the pit fill was reported as containing approximately 3 shell
tempered, incised pottery sherds and several small chert flakes.
Beneath the burial pit was culturally sterile, yellow sand.
Two other aboriginal burial pits were found within
6 to 10 feet of the one containing the candlestick.
One of these was an urn burial and one was a bundle burial with several
small shell beads. All three burials
were associated with daub that may have been part of an aboriginal structure.
Two Mississippian Period archeological phases are known from the site,
Furman Phase and Alabama River Phase which date from approximately 1450-1650 AD
(Curren 1984, 1992; Cottier 1970).
Collectors found another comparable 16th century
brass, capstan style candlestick (fig. 3)
in the 1980’s in the Mobile River
Delta at site 1Ba296. Archeological
field data is not available for the candlestick due to the indiscriminant
methods used by the collectors. Generally,
it was found with an impressive array of Bottle Creek/Bear Point Phase ceramic
vessels, numerous high status objects of stone and shell, and other sixteenth century European artifacts. The
European objects included: a brass pail, iron rifle barrel, iron ladle, sword,
lance or pike head, knife, iron bridle and cheek plate, mule shoe, reworked iron
kettle fragment, iron trade axe, wrought iron chisel, iron chisel or wedge
fragment, fragmentary iron sickle, iron spikes, unidentified oxidized iron
artifacts, chevron beads, turquoise blue glass beads, and a European
manufactured earthenware ear spool, probably from a Columbia plain olive jar
(Stowe et al. 1982; Stowe 1985; Fuller 1985; Curren 1992, Little &
Figure 3: 16th Century Candlesticks from Southwest Alabama
Both candlesticks are comparably similar to 16th Century heirloom
candlesticks from Europe (fig. 3) The two Alabama candlesticks are unique in North
American archeology and are extremely important as clues in our understanding of
movements of early Spanish armies and colonists through the Southeast.
We are continuing to study these two unique candlesticks as to their date
range, country of origin, the particular Spanish expedition that left them, and
the lifeways of the aboriginal peoples buried with them.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Charlie Clark, Ned Jenkins, and Reverend Oscar Lipscomb for their help in completing this article.
Figure 4: 16th Century Spanish Candlestick Heirloom from Europe
Approx. Height 5 and 3/4 inches
Cottier, John W.
Alabama River Phase: A Brief Description of a Late Phase in the
South Central Alabama. Report
to the National Park Service.
Protohistoric Period in Central Alabama. Alabama-Tombigbee
in the Mauvila Chiefdom: Native and Spanish Contacts during the
Soto and Luna Expeditions.
The Mauvila Project of the Mobile Historic
Fuller, Richard S.
Bear Point Phase of the Pensacola Variant: The Protohistoric Period in
Southwest Alabama. The Florida Anthropologist 38:1-2.
Little, Keith J., and Caleb Curren
Archaeology of Alabama. (in) Columbian Consequences 2.
David Hurst Thomas (ed.).
Smithsonian Institution Press.
Stowe, Noel R.
Pensacola Variant and the Bottle Creek Phase.
Stowe, Noel R., Richard S. Fuller, Amy Snow, and
Preliminary Report on the Pine Log Creek Site (1Ba462).
Report on file, University of