Archaeology in the Alamo Arcade

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
July 16, 2020
excavation test pit
Excavation of test pit in arcade, closest to Crockett Street

No archaeological work has occurred within Crockett and Bonham Streets and the southern portion of Alamo Plaza as part of the Phase I of the Alamo Plan for the past couple weeks. Archaeological work for this project was scheduled to resume on July 16, 2020. Archaeological work will consist of monitoring the excavation of trenches for the installation of a waterline reroute along Crockett and Bonham Streets.

The Alamo Archaeologist conducted an archaeological investigation on July 14 within the footprint of the arcade located on the south side of the Church. Due to the return of two recently conserved cannons, the areas where the cannons will be mounted needed to be excavated for the installation of concrete pads and cannon support. The two conserved cannons will be displayed in the arcade along-side six previously installed cannons.

The archaeological investigation consisted of the excavation of two 2-x-2-x-2 foot test pits. Each pit was excavated in 4 inch levels, and the soils were screened to collect artifacts. One of the pits was located in the southernmost arcade arch, closest to Crockett Street. This pit exhibited evidence of fill likely related to the demolition of structures that once stood on this corner up until the late 1920s. Fragments of concrete, glass, nails, and building stone were encountered to the bottom of the test pit, indicating that much of that area has had some major previous disturbance.

Construction debris found during excavations
Example of construction debris noted during the excavations

The excavation in the arcade closest to the Church encountered a PVC irrigation line at approximately 8 inches below the surface. Below the irrigation line, a level of compacted caliche was encountered. After fully excavating the test pit, and examining the profile, it appears that the caliche may be similar to the compacted caliche floor observed in the units excavated by Raba Kistner on the south side of the Church. The depths of the caliche will be compared to determine if they are at the approximately same elevation and are related. Artifacts recovered during screening consisted of animal bone and Goliad ware. Goliad ware is a type of handmade pottery that is associated with the indigenous populations of the region prior to the arrival of the Spanish and continued to be made throughout the mission period.

Compacted Caliche
Excavations revealed a layer of compacted caliche below the irrigation pipe
PVC Irrigation Line
PVC irrigation line uncovered during excavations

Raba Kistner has continued investigations within the Alamo Church as well, with the exhumation of known burials and continuation of the test units to allow for the installation of the sensors for monitoring the conditions below ground. All human remains recovered from the current efforts have been carefully removed and stored in the Alamo Curation Vault for a short period of time until reburial of all remains can occur, per the previously established Human Remains Protocol set in place for this project. The archaeological team has communicated to all parties outlined in the Human Remains Protocol the current progress of the investigations. To date of the Update publication, the archaeologists have finished exhumations and excavations in two of the four units.

Archaeological investigations will continue over the next several weeks, with the archaeological excavations associated with the preservation work in the Church likely wrapping up before the end of August.