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In the first major find at the Alamo Plaza, a team of archaeologists has discovered adobe bricks belonging to a Spanish colonial wall.
The team is not yet sure if the bricks were part of the compound’s west wall or if they formed an interior wall of some kind, like that of a housing structure.
Pape-Dawson Engineers Senior Archaeologist Nesta Anderson announced the find Monday as part of the daily 10:30 a.m. public briefings on the dig.
“We found an adobe brick wall with the bricks stacked next to each other,” Anderson said. “The bricks sit about 50 cm below the flagstones and are larger than the masonry bricks we are used to.”
Anderson said that because the archaeologists are not certain exactly where in the original mission layout the wall belongs, the team will conduct extensive research using reconstructions of the historic Alamo site.
“We will have to do an analysis to relate this finding to the rest of the compound and the walls,” Anderson said. “Once we know more, we’ll see if we’re going to continue (searching) in part of the same area or if we will search in additional areas.”
The ground surrounding the adobe bricks will also be sampled to determine if there was trash left near the wall, which might indicate a dwelling, or other soil deposits that will give the team clues regarding the wall’s function.
The site sits on the former footprint of a RadioShack store, now referred to as the “RadioShack site” by the archaeologists, that was demolished in 1979.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is serving as Alamo Master Plan Executive Committee co-chair and released a statement today regarding the adobe bricks.
“This is an exciting discovery, especially for a former school teacher and Texas history fan like myself. This archaeological exploration of the area surrounding the Alamo will be a tremendous benefit as we develop a master plan for reimagining the Alamo,” Bush said. “I am proud of the team of leading experts we have assembled to guide us through this historical process.”
Steve Tomka, senior archaeologist at Raba Kistner, said that the bricks will be left in place while the immediate area undergoes further examination. The bricks are sensitive to the weather and the team will take extra precautions so as to not scrape them with tools.
“We want to identify more of the wall and explore the vicinity for what else is there,” Tomka said.
Tomka and Anderson highlighted the fact that the adobe bricks were found relatively close to the surface of the current street.
“The team scraped away about five to six inches and they found the brick at about eight inches,” Anderson said. “We made the discovery Friday but we wanted to be sure about what we were finding.”
The dig is in preparation for a multi-million dollar master plan for the Alamo Plaza that the City of San Antonio, the Texas General Land Office, and the Alamo Endowment are developing together. Preservation Design Partnership, a firm based out of Philadelphia, is leading the master plan design.
The Partnership will host its first public input meeting Tuesday, Aug. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Representatives from each of the three organizations will explain the project, listen to citizen concerns, and answer questions.
Anderson said that the team is evaluating its findings every day to determine how and where to dig next. For now, the team has a lot of adobe brick wall research to do.
“Whether it’s interior wall or exterior wall, we’re not sure,” Anderson said. “All we know is that we’ve got a wall.”
Correction: The article previously stated that the Preservation Design Partnership was a a joint effort between three organizations to develop the master plan. This is incorrect. Preservation Design Partnership is the Philadelphia-based firm leading the design plan.
Top image: An archaeologist brushes an area of what are believed to be remnants of adobe bricks possibly bordering an exterior wall of the Alamo. Courtesy photo.