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After a month of digging and excavating the Alamo Plaza site, archaeologists at the site Friday announced that they have “substantially completed” their “discovery phase” work.
The archaeological dig was part of the multi-million dollar Alamo Plaza Master Plan, a result of a partnership among the Texas General Land Office, the City of San Antonio, and the Alamo Endowment. The main objectives of the excavation were to locate the original compound walls of the Alamo and give project planners more historical context on the site for future design plans. Preservation Design Partnership (PDP), a firm based in Philadelphia, is leading the master plan design.
At the press conference, the project’s lead archaeologist, Nesta Anderson, summarized the dig’s successes.
“Within the first week, we had already started uncovering partial deposits,” she said. “Then we made an exciting discovery. We found some adobe bricks that were in place at the west wall.”
Anderson said that Jake Ivy, who was a member of the Alamo excavation team in the ’70s, served as a special advisor to the project in order to confirm that the adobe was part of the west wall.
“We also found evidence of collapsed walls,” Anderson added. “We were getting what’s called ‘adobe melt.’ Adobe doesn’t fair too well in the heat. It’s mud, so it tends to melt in the rain and (becomes) runoff.”
The team also found more than 1,700 artifacts, including ceramics and other items indicating the location of rooms along the west wall where Native Americans once lived. They anticipate that an excavation further west would unearth more of the wall.
The archaeological dig team found stone at a deeper level at the south wall, Anderson added.
“(It) is something architectural, but we’re not sure if it’s a (foundation) footer or a remnant of the wall,” she said. Archaeologists will meet Friday afternoon to study archival documents to try to find the answer.
The most exciting part of the process, Anderson said, was the excavation of the tip of a non-commissioned officer sword.
(Read more: Tip of Mexican Sword Discovered at Alamo Dig Site)
“It was a briquet (sword) of French manufacture,” she explained. Sam Nesmith, director of the Texas Museum of Military History, was able to positively identify the artifact, though the team isn’t sure if it was used during the 1836 battle.
“This is the project of a lifetime,” Anderson said. ” We are all really excited to be out here. This is pretty much a dream come true.”
Shawn Marceaux from the UTSA Center for Archaeological Research primarily worked with excavating the adobe on the west wall.
“That, to me, was one of the most exciting things,” he said. This was the first time he had been part of an excavation of adobe, he added, and the fact that the adobe was part of the Alamo made the experience more exciting.
“We’re looking at the Alamo in a new light, so to be a part of that process is humbling,” Marceaux said.
City Archaeologist Kay Hindes praised the team’s work.
“We brought together a dream team of archaeologists to work on this project,” she said. “On behalf of the City, I just want to thank them for all of their hard work.”
In a news release, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush also commended the work of the “discovery phase” team.
“We are tremendously energized by the wealth of discoveries unearthed during this archeological investigation as the momentum continues to build and the Alamo master plan process unfolds,” he stated. Bush is chairman of the Alamo Endowment Board and co-chair of the Alamo Master Plan Executive Committee with Mayor Ivy Taylor.
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The team has succeeded in answering the Alamo Master Plan team’s original questions with what they have found, Anderson said. In the coming weeks, the Alamo Master Plan team will meet to consider the information found in the “discovery phase” and what impact it will have on the final Alamo design.
Hindes told the Rivard Report after the press conference that there are public input meetings for the design tentatively planned for the end of September and that more information will be released after members of the Alamo Master Plan agree on a schedule.
Top image: Pape-Dawson Engineers archaeological team leader Nesta Anderson speaks about the Native American artifacts that were found during the final Alamo dig. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.