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Bronze mortar, England, 1614

Mortars were bowls used to crush and grind ingredients for drug preparations that were often in the form of powders, ointments or solutions. The grinding was done with a pestle. This mortar is typical of the period as it is made from bell metal or bronze. Its bell shape suggests it may have been cast in a bell foundry, which was often the case. The inscription cast on to the side reads “Francis Cottrell 1614”. Cottrell was either the owner or the maker. This mortar is heavy and would have been able to withstand a large amount of force. It is shown here with a brass pestle (A659489).

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Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: mortar

Cup-shaped vessel in which drugs or herbal mixtures are pounded with a pestle.

Glossary: pestle

An elongated piece of hard material usually made of stone. A pestle is used for grinding pigments, herbs, spices or other materials in a mortar.