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Buff coloured terra sigillata, Europe, 1401-1700

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.

Object number:

A656695

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Glossary:

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: epidemic

A sudden widespread occurance of an infection with high numbers of people affected.

Glossary: terra sigillata

A form of clay from the Greek islands of Lemnos or Samos. Until the 1700s, terra sigillata was used as a medicine and seen as a general cure for bodily impurities.