Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Finds - New Theories on St. Augustine's Bay Front - The Trolley Stop Dig

Trolley Stop Dig with Castillo de San Marcos in the background

Last month FPAN reported from the field.  The action was at Carl Halbirt, the City Archaeologist's, dig across from the Castillo de San Marcos.  Well the action is still happening! To bring you up to date, the City plans to build a Colonial Spanish Quarter trolley stop across from the Castillo.  Carl's investigations in the area have uncovered some very tantalizing features, large post hole stains, a very large well feature and some aligned trenches.  Work has continued through mid February and theories of what lies beneath the ground have vacillated from an early wooden fort built before the current Castillo to a warehouse on the waterfront.

St. Augustine City Archaeologist, Carl Halbirt, points at a long trench feature.
Carl has a theory! 
And the weather has not cooperated - Carl and his intrepid volunteers have sandwiched their field work between days of heavy rain and cold.  But this past Wednesday dawned a beautiful day with some amazing archaeology.   The crew excavated some of the large post hole stains to see if they were in fact posts and if they aligned to form the outlines of a structure.  Carl had a theory! 

Large post hole soil stains
 Well - some of them were deep post holes and some of them were not.  But toward the end of the day, one very large stain revealed what could be the smoking gun!  The stain turned out to be a large deep post hole and --- below the water table, there appeared the remains of a large wooden post.  Voila - here was tantalizing evidence of a very large wooden structure that may continue east under the road and the Castillo parking lot.   And the artifacts from the post hole, mostly native pottery, confirmed the 17th century date.  This could be it the very first evidence of one of St. Augustine's nine wooden forts built before the Castillo!

Toni Wallace excavates a post hole.
Ahh - archaeology is such fun in St. Augustine!  Next Carl will excavate the large well feature to the north of the post hole.  Could it be the very well that served the wooden fort in the mid-16th century?  If you would like to volunteer with Carl, contact the St. Augustine Archaeological Association and help us uncover the buried history of the nation's oldest city.  St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565, 40 years before Jamestown, Virginia, only the second oldest.

Phil Gulliford begins excavation of the well.
Marylea Klauder wet screens soil from the post hole and searches for pottery. 
Look for further updates on the City's exciting archaeology at this blog, the Dirt on Public Archaeology.

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