Unknown Record 7 > Seed Macro 1

North America
Location Collected: 
Mission San Sabá Menard, TX
United States
Collection Type: 
Collection Context: 
Cultural Affiliation
to 1758
Cultural Period: 
Historic, Spanish mission
Collection Origin: 
Archaeological Excavation
Origin Details: 
Mission San Sabá (Menard County, Texas) was established ca. 150 miles northwest of San Antonio in 1757. The mission compound, consisting of temporary wattle and daub structures, was burned in 1785. The mission was well-stocked with ornate religious items and exotic goods originating from Mexico, Spain, Germany, China, and possibly other regions as well.
Leslie Bush
Title Type Botanical Part Date Collected
Seed Macro 1 Macro Seed
Image Type: 
Image Credit: 
Jennifer McWilliams
Leslie Bush
Botanical Part: 

A piece of dense, homogenous material that appears to be botanical in origin was recovered from Lot 655, PS 33, Feature 6 and may be a non-local plant. No interior vessels or exterior seedcoat are present, and even the overall shape of the original plant part is not clear. One facet of the material is flatter than the other, suggesting a cotelyon, but the “flat” surface is sufficiently undulating that this interpretation is not entirely secure. The only morphological attributes that can be determined from the fragment are texture, density, and minimum size.

The texture and density of the Lot 655 material are reminiscent of hickory nutshell. The texture is homogenous, vesselless, and very dense. The fragment measures 50.02 mm x 35.26 mm x 20.58 mm at its thickest. Several possible identifications were considered and rejected for this specimen. It is too long to be avacado (Persea americana, which also has some interior variation in tissue), and too thick to be the kernel of a mango seed (Mangifera indica; although the texture and density are good matches). Tagua palm kernels (Phytelephas aequatorialis) match the specimen well in size and density, but they have numerous interior vessels that preclude identification as tagua.

Ojo de benado seeds are known to have been present at the Mission (Table B.8). Seeds glossed in English as buckeyes (Ungnadia spp. and Aesculus spp.) and sea beans (Mucuna spp.) have a long history as as ojo de benado charms (Hildburgh 1906). The kernels of Ungnadia and Aesculus are insufficiently dense to match the Lot 655 specimen, although the largest Aesculus would be large enough. Mucuna seeds are members of the legume family that split into cotyledons, and their size and density is a good match to the specimen from Lot 655. There are approximately 100 species of Mucuna worldwide (Kirkbride et al. 2000). The twenty Mucuna seeds in the Macrobotanical Analysis comparative collection are M. sloanei or possibly M. urens. The largest diameter of any specimen is 31.5 mm, and the thickest cotyledon measures approximately 10 mm. Kirkbride and colleagues (2000) give maximum seed diameter for the 32 Mucuna species they examined as 37 mm x 36 mm x 17.5 mm. Thus it appears that Mucuna seeds are also not a good match to the Lot 655 specimen. It is possible, however, that the Lot 655 specimen represents an unusually large Mucuna seed or an unusually large-seeded species of Mucuna that was not among the 32 species examined by Kirkbride and collegues.