| In the days before industrially processed and packaged herbs and spices, the mortar and pestle was used to pulverize and grind up minerals and plants. For an apothecary, it was an indispensable tool, but it was also used extensively by individual homeowners.
The mortar and pestle, as the name implies, consists of two parts. The mortar is the heavy base, which incorporates a cup shaped depression, into which the item to be ground would be placed. The pestle is the other part, which is grasped in the user's hand, and used to perform the actual grinding action.
|This particular mortar and pestle has been dated to the 1600s. It was hand fashioned and carved. Although it looks somewhat crude, the mortar was carved with a design of 'flowers' around the top edge, and the pestle was given a 'hilt'. It supposedly was part of a collection of then-antiques amassed by an apothecary in the 1720s, and subsequently sold as a museum collection in an estate auction to another apothecary. In the 1970s the entire collection was purchased by an antiques dealer from Duncansville, Pennsylvania, and he then sold the pieces individually.|
|Below is a closeup view of the top of the mortar, showing the fanciful carving around the edge.|
|The following view shows the bottom of the mortar. The piece originally was carved with two handles. One of the handles broke off, and over the years the two spots where the handles originally attached to the body became smooth.|