Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Celebration of Jamaica's heritage

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Limestone water filter

Throughout decades, Jamaica has been influenced by numerous cultures and their practices, which makes this island nation unique. As we continue on our journey to chart the history of Jamaica through her artefacts, today, we focus on the Limestone Water Filter.

According to Frederic G. Cassidy, the Limestone Water Filter was introduced to Jamaica in the 18th century by the Spaniards who settled in Jamaica.

Olive Senior describes the limestone water filter as "a device made of hollowed out limestone, and was commonly used to filter drinking water of solid impurities in the days before piped water was widely available".

This type of filter is composed of three separate parts. The first is the filter, which is made of a hollowed out, conical piece of limestone. The water is poured into it and slowly filters through, extracting dirt and adding minerals, especially lime.

According to Senior, in more elaborate cases, a second more shallow limestone filter would be placed underneath the first filter, allowing the water to be filtered twice before falling into the jar below.

The second component is the earthenware jar that is placed underneath the hollowed-out limestone. This collects the water and keeps it cool. The third component is what can be described as a type of framework known as a water storage cabinet or simply as a case. Both filter and jar would be housed in a framework made of wood or stone, the jar having a square flange at the top to support it in the frame.

The one shown here is a fine example of the housing, having a latticework pattern. Less elaborate types also existed. Many filtering stones and fragments have been found in the archaeological excavations of 16th-century New Seville in St Ann.

Did you know?

That Sevilla Nueva, or New Seville, (located near present-day St Ann's Bay) is the oldest Spanish settlement in Jamaica and one of the earliest in the New World.

- Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum Jamaica Institute of Jamaica