From the Los Mimbres Shipwreck (1527)
Los Mimbres Ingot M152 [sold]
weight : 9.2 lbs
dimensions: 9 x 29 x 2 cm
sigla: IN del Boca, YBIZ
Ley/ fineness: Uiiii = 1400
style of ley: modified caroline
second assay: no
quinto/ tax stamp: one visible next to owner
place & date of production: Tarascan Michoacan, Mexico, 1523-24
M152 is the Tarascan ingot that previous researchers have flagged as having the most legible sigla. Sadly, this seems to be true! M152 is also very important bar for sorting out owners from assayers. On M152 the assayer's cartouche sits next to his assay, as required by law and custom. The owner logo sits on the other side of the bar adjacent to the quinto, testifying the owner paid this tax to the crown (or at least had a quinto mark stamped on his bar). There can be no question that YBIZ is the assayer and IN Del Boca the owner, given the position of the sigla.
The sharper image of the owner's logo that M152 affords rules out the tentative previous reading of IoN DeBCA. In fact, the small o sits atop the B (as in the Mexico City logo Mo) and connects via the ligature mark to the final A. This means an o (or o's) is to be inserted in BCA. The Spanish name that is a natural fit is BOCA. So the owner is IN Del Boca. IN can represent Juan but several other names are possible including Inigo. Ongoing reserach will very soon, I expect, confirm that Del Boca was one of Cortes' men and give us his first name.
As I have explained elsewhere (see M101), these ingots were not part of the monetary/economic system of New Spain because of their size and uncertain value. Someone who wanted to spend his share of the Tarascan treasure, someone who needed to pay taxes or deal with the Colonial government, someone who wanted to monetize his ingots for any number of reasons, needed to have his unrefined bars converted into properly refined ingots, or ideally, into coinage. Senor Del Boca was sending his share of the Tarascan Treasure back to Spain to be coined, perhaps sailing with it.
As a rule unrefined ingots throughout the Americas did not survive longer than the time it took to transport them to the nearest foundry. The very few examples that survive were lost in transit. The only reason that the Los Mimbres ingots escaped a quick trip to the melting pot was that in years prior to 1525-26 Cortes’ foundries did not have the capacity to refine all the treasure he was collecting from Michoacan and elsewhere. Capacity was increased significantly in 1526 to accommodate the mandated recall of unrefined ingots (a recall that owners of Tarascan bars did not in fact oppose). By 1528-29 the last Tarascan ingots were in the melting pot—except of course for those that had already left Mexico!
Tarascan bars were not being smuggled out Mexico. Senor Del Boca seven bars all showed a quinto. They were legal to export UNTIL the recall ended. Several of Cortes’ associates returned to Spain in the period 1526-28, including Cortes himself in 1528. It is easy to suppose that the Los Mimbres ingots represented part of the wealth accumulated by a prominent Conquistador, who was himself returning to Spain or shipping his treasure back to Spain at this time. On-going archival work in Spain will shortly discover the identity of this Cortes galleon and perhaps through its manifest tell us who all came to grief along with the Los Mimbres shoals.
References: Armstrong p. 52, Garcia-Barneche p. 62-63, 134
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