Alamo Archaeology Highlights For Texas Archaeology Awareness Month

October 26, 2020
Image of a streetcar ca. pre-1890 in Alamo Plaza.

With October being Texas Archaeology Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of the most exciting discoveries at the Alamo recently. For the past 15 months, the Alamo has been making progress on archaeological investigations in the Long Barrack and Church, two of the oldest buildings in Texas. These investigations are meant to help determine the state these historic structures are in, and what needs to be done to preserve them for future generations.

In March, archaeological field work was completed in association with the installation of safety perimeter bollards around Alamo Plaza.

While conducting these investigations, the archaeology teams have come across several exciting artifacts and discoveries.

Everett’s map, indicating the location of the possible tower.

One of these discoveries was remnants of a 19th century rail car system. During the late 1880s, the street car routes would have gone from downtown San Antonio to the surrounding suburbs such as Alamo Heights and Woodlawn Park. They were eventually removed or paved over.

In 2019, the archaeology team discovered remnants of what appeared add information to a longstanding Alamo mystery. This mystery, which had puzzled researchers for decades, stemed from maps drawn of the site by U.S. Army Sergeant Edward Everett in 1846 and 1848. Those show what might be a possible lookout tower that once stood near the Alamo Church.

Until last year, no evidence of this feature depicted on the maps have been uncovered. The archaeology discovered a circular foundation of stone that cincides with the circular feature and Everett’s map.

Overview of the section of intact tile floor encountered inside the Alamo Church.

This past August, archaeologists discovered intact, handmade brick floor tiles inside the Church that could date back to the late 1700s. According to archival records concerning the construction of the Church, it is possible that this floor is a later addition, possibly towards the end of the Mission Period, or during the early portion of the use of the grounds as a fortress (later quarter of the 1700s to the early 1800s).

A piece of canister shot that may be from the 1836 battle.

One of the most exciting artifacts discovered includes a piece of copper shot recovered from inside the Church . The copper canister shot was an exciting find as it matches the size and shape of many of the examples of canister shot recovered from the route of the Mexican Army retreat from San Jacinto.

Approx. Date of Artifact 1650s — 1725

Gregg Dimmick, author of Sea of Mud, was able to bring his example canister shot to the Alamo for comparison. He and Alamo Curator, Ernesto Rodriguez, are confident that this copper canister shot found during these archaeological investigations likely represents a piece of Mexican ammunition from the Battle of the Alamo.

Another exciting discovery is a piece of Puebla Polychrome, dating back to the 1700s. Puebla Polychrome was manufactured in Mexico likely during the second half of the seventeenth century until approximately 1725. This type is more often encountered at the earliest occupied Spanish Colonial sites in San Antonio, including Mission San Antonio de Valero, Presidio de Bexar, and the early civilian sites associated with Villa de Bexar.