Alamo Archaeology Update — Learning More About How the Long Barrack Was Constructed

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
August 2, 2019
Archaeologist inside an excavation unit, and two others are outside the unit taking notes
Figure 1. Archaeologists excavating and recording data inside of the Long Barrack.

Archaeological Investigations continues around the Alamo grounds. Work in association with the safety bollard installation was conducted in four areas on the south and west side of the Plaza. Visitors can see the archaeologists within fenced-areas as they are excavating units or monitoring the removal of soils.

In addition, work associated with the preservation work for the Church and Long Barrack focused on the three units on the east side of the Long Barrack. Visitors can see some on the action from the northern area of the Convento Courtyard.

Archaelogist inside excavation unit, and another seated nearby taking notes
Figure 2. One archaeologist cleaning the wall of unit to examine the profile while the other records notes.

Archaeology in the Long Barrack has revealed some interesting information concerning the construction of the building. The excavations appear to have extended beyond the modern treatments to the west wall that were noted during updates. Below the concrete treatment, the foundation of the wall continues to consist of rough-cut limestone with no visible mortar. The archaeologists have begun to note a change in the construction method just below the rough-cut limestone.

The construction of the wall appears to consist of smaller limestone pieces with a possible lime slurry holding the stones together, although there is more excavating that will need to occur before this can be confirmed with certainty. In addition, the west wall and south wall of the structure appears to have limestone footers at different elevations. The information concerning the characteristics of the foundation is shared with the historic architecture team for their studies.

Archaeologist scanning stones with a scanner
Figure 3. Laser scanning stones within unit located on the exterior of the east wall of Long Barrack.

As the archaeologists excavate deeper, there appears to be a decrease in glass, metal and ceramics, and building related materials (mortar, plaster, etc.) increase. All of the units appear to be exhibiting less artifacts in general the deeper the excavations.

The Raba Kistner Archaeology Team was trained during the week by one of the specialists on the project team to use a laser scanner to record the rock features uncovered in the units, allowing the limestone rubble related to the 20th century changes on the site to be removed after documentation. This is one of the many technological recording methods being used during the investigations, which will help to provide much more precise measurements. The scanning will also aid in the production of 3-D models of significant finds encountered during the course of the project.

While most of the archaeologists are involved with the excavation of the units, some are focused on examining the artifacts that are collected. The archaeologists have set up a temporary lab on site to wash, dry, sort, and catalogue the materials.

Artifacts recovered from the units and being catalogued include 18th through 20th century ceramic sherds spanning the dates of the occupation of the site, metal fragments, nails, glass fragments and bottles, plaster and mortar fragments, and some pieces of chipped stone. All of these materials will go through the cataloguing process and prepared to be curated at a State Certified Curatorial Repository.