The ship also carried flat, disk-shaped ingots of copper. In Spain, the copper would have been used to make cannons, bells and other items. At first, the ship was loaded with 2,058 ingots of copper. Then, before sailing, the 1,915 ingots for the royal treasury were moved to another ship. This left 143 ingots of copper weighing 12,471 pounds. There is no record of the Spanish retrieving these after the storm, and many were found at the wreck.
El Nuevo Constante transported a large quantity of New World plant and insect dyes. They included cochineal, annatto, indigo and dyewood. Archaeologists found pieces of all these, except cochineal.
Cochineal is a red dye made from the dried bodies of the female cochineal insects. They live only on the prickly pear cactus. The insects were both collected in the wild and grown on plantations. These insects also were native to the Old World, but the type in Mexico gave deeper and better color. People in Europe highly prized this dye. Through much of the colonial period, high-quality cochineal was one of Mexico's most valuable export products. The Spanish salvaged some of the cochineal after the wreck, and the rest must have dissolved in the sea water.
The ship was loaded with 5,415 pounds of annatto. Annatto is an orange dye made from the seeds of a shrub. The annatto was packed in boxes and small barrels for shipment.
Merchants sometimes shipped blocks of dye in fabric sacks. The imprint of fabric can be seen on the block of annatto here. Annatto was first used by the native peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean as a dye and for flavoring their food. Today, annatto is used as a dye and seasoning around the world.
El Nuevo Constante also carried 2,896 pounds of indigo, which made a blue dye. The indigo on El Nuevo Constante was in pouches that each weighed 200 pounds. Archaeologists found only one small piece of indigo on the wreck.
Logwood was another source of blue dye, and also of red. The wood provides a blue color when treated with alkali and an impermanent red when treated with acid. This blue is more violet, and more likely to fade, than indigo. Logwood comes from a hard, compact tree grown in Central and South America.
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