Long Barrack Archaeology Update - February 9

February 9, 2024

During this week, five excavation units were active: EUs 2 and 2b, 4, 6, and 10.

Excavations were completed in EU-2 on Tuesday and archaeologists completed all final documentation, to include photos and mapping, by Wednesday afternoon. As in previous units, hand excavation of EU-2 was terminated at 150 cm below surface (five feet). This depth is to protect archaeologists from any potential soil wall collapse. While there were multiple intentional surfaces encountered in this unit, the most prominent feature was Feature 3, a limestone alignment. After approval from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), archaeologists began an adjacent unit in order to delineate Feature 3. This is important as the limestone alignment is in the path of the future drainage system. The adjacent unit is EU-2b.

EU-2b measures 2m long and 1m wide. It is adjacent to the southern boundary of EU-2. The goal of the unit is to delineate Feature 3 and to gather as much date about the feature as possible. Archaeologist began excavation of the unit on Thursday and by the end of the week were able to reach a depth of 30 cm below surface. Artifacts in these higher soil layers included ceramic sherds, metal fragments, and glass.

Archaeologists in EU-4 worked very efficiently and completed excavation of the unit by the end of the week. The terminal depth for hand excavation was 150 cm below surface. The final soil layer was devoid of cultural material and consisted of the same type of clay loam seen in the adjacent units. Archaeologists will complete final documentation next week.

Rocky border inside of an excavation unit
EU-2 at its terminal depth. Note the hardpan appearing in the western half of the unit; photo facing north.
Rectangular surface inside an excavation unit
EU-2b at approximately 30 cm below surface, facing north.
White board and marker on dirt surface inside an excavation unit
EU-4 at the base of unit, photo facing east.

Excavation within EU-6 continued and reached a depth of approximately 80 cm below surface by the end of the week. A new feature was encountered in the southwest quadrant of the unit. This feature- Feature 25- is a surface comprised of large shaped limestone blocks. The feature articulates with the Long Barrack wall and could indicate an entryway or surface that was constructed when the wall was rebuilt in the early 1900s. The feature extends southward into a future excavation unit, and thus will remain in situ until it is exposed in its entirety.

Archaeologists opened a new unit, EU-10, on Monday. This unit measures 2 m by 1.5  m. The unit is located along the Long Barrack’s eastern wall. By the end of the week archaeologists were able to reach a depth of approximately 20 cm below surface. During excavation, archaeologists noted the saturation of the Long Barrack’s stone wall, further indicating the need for a drainage system to move water away from the historic structure.

The lab continued to process artifacts throughout the week. For this week’s artifact spotlight we would like to present a ceramic figurine recovered from EU-3.

Ceramic Figurine

A Tonalá Burnished ceramic figurine was recovered from EU-3 at approximately 70 cm below surface. The figurine is fragmented but appears to be crafted into an unidentified animal. Tonalá Burnished ware is a Spanish Colonial unglazed ceramic frequently found within the Alamo footprint and across Spanish Colonial sites in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The polished appearance of this ceramic is achieved through a technique called burnishing, which entails the rubbing of a smooth object on a “leather hard” clay vessel before the firing process. Tonalá Burnished ware has a fine gray paste and intricate geometric designs in black, red, and sometimes yellow. Unlike the other Spanish Colonial ceramic types, Tonalá Burnished was highly valued and typically consisted of decorative crockery and ornamental figurines. Although Tonalá Burnished ware dates as early as 1610, it was not introduced to Texas until approximately 1780. Tonalá Burnished originates in Tonalá, Mexico, and is still produced today.

Rocky surface inside of an excavation unit
EU-6 at 80 cm below surface. Note Feature 25 in the southwest corner of unit, photo facing east.
White board and marker at center of dirt surface inside an excavation unit
EU-10 at 20 cm below surface, facing north.
Two burnished figurines next to a ruler
Tonalá Burnished figurine.