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The St. Thomas fort at Thangassery was built in 1519 by the Portuguese. Thangassery was associated with the Chinese trade from the first millennium A.D and was later colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. The initial plan of the Portuguese to build the fort was to use it as storage for the abundantly available pepper and spices procured from the region. The fort and associated areas revealed several monuments belonging to the colonial period such as cemeteries, fort walls, arches, and an old lighthouse.

Chinese ceramic

Chinese ceramics refers to any form of ceramic artefact, predominantly vessels which were produced by potters and artisans within the geographical boundaries of the present republic of China. Chinese ceramics began with a pottery industry that can be traced back to the different Chinese archaeological cultures during the Neolithic period. Chinese Ceramics have been among the most important archaeological findings in the study of trade in the Indian Ocean and they have the advantages of commonality, durability, and identity and are unearthed in large quantities from several regions across the Indian Ocean indicating the trade contacts. These ceramics are broadly dated from the 8th Century to the 19th Century CE. Nineteen major types of Chinese ceramics have been obtained from the site of Thangassery, Kollam and these include:

  • Yue Celadon 7th -9th Century CE

  • Yaozhou Celadon 10th -12th CenturyCE

  • Qingbai Porcelain of Jingdezhen 10th -12th Century CE

  • Coarse White ware: Cizhou Kilns 11th– 14th Century CE

  • Coarse White ware: Guangdong Kilns 11th Century CE

  • Early Fujian Celadon 11th -14th Century CE

  • Fujian Celadon: Yuan to Early Ming Period 13th -15th CE

  • Dehua Qingbai porcelain 13th -14th CE

  • Longquan Celadon of Zhejiang 14th CE

  • Imitations of Longquan Celadon 14th -15th CE

  • Qingbai porcelain of Jingdezhen 13th -15th CE

  • Qingbai Porcelain of Yuan period 13th -14th CE

  • Early Transportation Jars 13th -14th CE

  • Martaban Jars 13th -14th CE

  • Blue and White ware of Ming dynasty 15th -16th CE

  • Low-quality transportation jars of Late period 13th -18th CE

  • Brown glazed ware 14th -16th CE

  • Southeast Asian Celadon 14th -18th CE

  • Blue and white ware of later period 17th -18th CE

Turquoise glazed ware from Thangassery

It is one of the most widely distributed West Asian ceramic types and almost all historical and early medieval port sites in the Indian Ocean reported its presence. This pottery type is generally dated between the 8th to 9th century CE and was mainly made in the region of Iraq. Common shapes are straight necked jars, neck-less or hole mouthed jars with sloping shoulders and globular jars.

European porcelain from Thangassery

The production of European Porcelain started in the late 16th CE. However, the majority of the porcelain industries in Europe were established from the 18th CE onwards. These ceramics were exported to the ports of Kerala during the late medieval period. At the mediaeval port of Thangaserry, a total of 22 shreds were found from various explorations. Most ceramics are body shreds. The exterior surfaces are mainly plain with few decorated shreds on both sides. The interior sides are mostly decorated with floral, petal and linear decorations.

Local ceramics from Thangassery

Out of the 11234 shreds recovered from the explorations on the coast of Thangassery and Kollam port, 10422 shreds which are 93% of the total belong to local ceramics. The majority of these shreds belong to red ware of the medieval period, which is a commonly found ceramic ware across different parts of Kerala. The vessel types from the site include pot, bowl, dish, lid, basin, one jar and one ring stand. The jars/pots were probably used for storage purposes while bowls were used as serving vessels.

Paddled Ware

Out of the various local ceramics obtained from Thangassery, the Paddled Ware is one of the most common varieties. Paddling is accomplished by pounding a lump of clay with a wooden paddle against a large stone. The rough surface created by the process made it easy to hold on to the vessels and allow for a more effective transfer of heat. The fabric texture may appear on the side of the pottery if the paddle was covered with fabric. Otherwise, the pot could be created by shaping and pinching a lump of clay. A vast majority of the sherds of paddled ware are obtained in close affinity to temples and marketplaces.

General view of Thangassery

Chinese Blue on white ware (


Chine Blue on white ware (


Yue ware

Purquoise glazed pottery