Archaeology Update — New Excavation Units Opened at the Alamo

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
November 13, 2019

Excavations this week worked on closing the last two units within the Long Barrack, and opening units associated with the Church.

Work in the Long Barrack this week was limited to excavation unit 11 and unit 16. However, investigations for unit 16 were limited due to inclement weather throughout the week.

Inside of an excavation unit
Figure 1. Beginning of exploratory excavations for feature within northern profile wall of unit 11, facing west.

Excavations for unit 11 this week focused on two features previously identified. The first feature, identified within the northern 2-x-2-unit profile wall, had been exposed in the previous week. A 27-x-27 inch unit had been excavated the previous week to 63 inches below datum to fully expose the outline of the feature (Figure 1).

This week’s excavations worked on bisecting the feature to document its composition. Excavations determined that the feature was constructed of limestone cobbles with a semi-compact caliche deposit beneath, set atop silty clay soils that contain no artifacts. Artifacts collected during feature removal were few. Excavations terminated at 63 inches below datum (Figure 2).

Large rocks inside excavation unit
Figure 2. End of exploratory excavations for feature within northern profile wall of unit 11, facing west.

The second feature that was further explored within unit 11 consisted of a possible post hole feature filled with ash and burned corn cobs (Figure 3). The feature had been partially bisected and exposed in profile during past excavations, but the goal of this week’s work was to locate the bottom of the feature. Excavations to expose the profile documented a dense concentration of burnt corn cob that extended to approximately 55 inches below datum.

No other artifacts, aside from the burned corn cob, were recovered from the feature. Once the two features were explored, unit 11 excavations were completed with no other investigations planned for the area.

Inside of an excavation unit
Figure 3. End of exploratory excavations for burnt corn cob feature within unit 11, facing east.

Excavations associated with the units placed in and around the Church have found that the upper layers of soil in the nave and the room identified as the Monk’s Burial Room appear to have fill soils that contain glass, ceramics, animal bones. The soils are silty and have a lot of limestone fragments and gravels, appearing uniform in the unit profiles. The unit located inside the Monk’s Burial Room also exhibits signs of disturbance from rodents with pockets and voids uncovered that are consistent with burrowing animals.

In the coming weeks, excavations will focus on the units in and around the Church. The archaeologists will come back to the Long Barracks after the historic architects have had the chance to complete their studies to perform the backfilling tasks.