The Exeter Puzzle Jug

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The Exeter Puzzle Jug

This jug is perhaps the most celebrated example of medieval imported pottery found in England, and one of the most extraordinary pieces of medieval ceramics to have been discovered anywhere in northern Europe. Made in the Saintonge, western France, c. 1300, it was discovered in fragments in South Street, Exeter, in 1899.

'Puzzle jugs' are so-called because they were made as trick jugs, designed to pour their contents over the unsuspecting drinker. Despite its intricate appearance, the Exeter example is not strictly a puzzle jug since it lacks the concealed holes which caused the liquid to spill out. In this example liquid would be poured into the upper chamber, flowing down through the hollow handle into the bottom chamber, allowing it to be drunk without spills.

The jug shows a tower in which are two bishops (with croziers); young ladies disport themselves from its windows and musicians play below. The scene points fun at the morals of the medieval clergy.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum