Note: this blog post is the third of an ongoing series written by Flagler College History students working on site with St. Augustine's City Archaeologist. You can read the Flagler Public History blog here.
If you were to pass through downtown St. Augustine, you may run into the Flagler College Communications building on Cordova Street. Currently there is planned construction behind the building in its parking lot, but before any construction can begin, archaeologists, under city ordinance, must take an archaeological survey of the site to look for anything of importance. The team found multiple points of interest during the survey.
Here we see Nick McAuliffe conducting a plumb bob test. The plumb bob acts like a line level, but for vertical measurement. This helps the archaeologists to keep track of vertical positions. The test is essential to the archaeological dig to help keep records. This specific excavation site was found when signs of construction were found during the survey.
These are some of the indicators of construction that archaeologists look for. These specifically are stains in the dirt and are believed to be post holes. The wood in the post would cause a stain in the earth. This marker indicates that there might be something of more importance in the general area.
The stained earth in this unit (different from the previous picture) indicated that there was a well that had been built right where the concave area is seen in the site. Wells are interesting because they often serve as trash pits when they are no longer of use. Trash pits offer all kinds of insight into the daily lives of the people who used to live here. The well had been discovered prior to my visit to the site, so the team was already in the process of going through what was found in it.
When a well is discovered the muck found within the well is put through a sifter. Well points are often used in this process, but the team was waiting for one to arrive when I visited. Anything larger than the screen mesh remains on top of the sifter. On the day that I visited, the team had already found some artifacts: sherds of pottery, coquina blocks once used to create walls and buildings, and a piece of leather. The leather had been found prior to my visit and had been in pristine condition due to the climate of the well.
Here are some of the things found in the well. The well provides a great climate for preserving artifacts. This sherd of pottery retains most of its color even though it is hundreds of years old. Also, this clay pipe was found in the well with small inscriptions on the side. These are just some of the things people may have discarded into the well. I found the pipe interesting because it had a personal feel to it. It was once someone's personal belonging, with inscriptions and all.
This dig is still going on and much more has been discovered since my visit. In a city as old as St. Augustine, there is bound to be something of historical significance in the parking lot of the Flagler Communications building. The archaeologists believe the site was once a larger piece of property than it is currently. The well indicates it was someone's private residence, with the possibilities of a stable somewhere in the area.
Text and photos by Erik Hendricksen