Excavations at the Alamo Shrine [page 17]

IV. Previous Archaeological Investigations

During the past 12 years, several archaeological projects have been conducted on the Alamo grounds, each providing valuable information to aid in better understanding of past events (Fig. 7). The WPA excavated extensively on the Alamo grounds in the 1930s, mostly in the area east of the church and convento where there had been commercial buildings earlier. However, no records of these early excavations have been found.

During summer 1966, John Greer (1967) directed excavations for the Witte Museum on the north side of the Alamo Shrine, in what had been the original mission convento patio areas. Excavations were conducted in several selected areas within what are now called the Well Court and the North Court (Fig. 7,a).

Two test excavations verified that the present wall, built in 1913 and dividing the two courtyards, rests upon an earlier wall probably of the mission period. In the North Court, Greer (ibid.) also uncovered the remains of what might have been either the original north wall of the second patio, or some other structure remnant, which was built of roughly cut limestone blocks set in a yellow sand mortar. This in turn rested upon a footing of rubble limestone laid with brown mud mortar. The wall lay several feet south of the modern boundary wall and may have been part of the original mission workshop rooms. An impressive collection of military artifacts associated with the wall suggests that it was used during the siege of 1836. Included in the collection were such items as gun parts, musket balls, cannon or howitzer ball fragments, sherds of earthenware, and other materials from that period.

Also in the same courtyard, ear the southwest corner, excavations uncovered the remains of a flooring laid with sandstone slabs, as well as a portion of north-running stone slab wall which appears to extend perpendicular from the east-west patio dividing wall. This stone construction probably dates to the Spanish period, and may be a remnant wall of one of the rooms in the old north patio described by Fray Francisco de los Dolores in 1762 (Schuetz 1966), where weaving looms and storerooms were located during the mission period.

Excavations in the Well Court uncovered some buried structural remains of particular interest. Just east of the well, in about the center of the patio and lying below a surface of sandstone slabs laid in the Spanish period, the excavations revealed the remains of what appeared to have been a room. Only the wall base was found, hut enough remained to determine construction and orientation. The walls were built of large adobe bricks set in brown mud mortar. These were laid upon the sterile black clay, which appears to have been the pre-mission period ground surface. The room flooring was puddled adobe. Only the northern end of the room, including the two corners, was excavated. The inside dimension of the exposed portion of the room measured about 13 feet. The structure is oriented about 45 degrees off north, in contrast to the approximate 9.5 degrees east of north orientation for the later church (Alamo Shrine). Possibly this structure dates to the initial building period ca. 1727) at the site. It might have been part of the older adobe church which was mentioned by Father Ortiz in 1745, but which had fallen sometime prior to the construction of a new church of stone and mortar (Schuetz 166:9. However, the exact location of the first church does not seem to he documented.

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