Monday, November 5, 2018


Here's the latest update from Dr. Kathleen Deagan at the excavations at the Mission Nombre de Dios:

Good week- no rain! We are still mostly in the tabby section (the Friar’s living quarters) of the  La Leche Shrine/Hermitage, although intrepid volunteers Don Roberts, Phil Guilliford and Carl Lindenfeld have been working on the stone section and have found the north wall of the Chapel and or Shrine building.

Carl and Don working hard.
Whoever built the tabby section (be it Franciscan friars, Indian residents of Mission Nombre de Dios, or hired laborers) they were not trained in building construction. The walls are not at right angles to one another, and the methods of construction are erratic. The outer west wall of the building has a fairly substantial shell footing, but it varies a lot in depth. Unfortunately, there is almost no above-ground tabby construction remaining, but a layer of mortar above the shell footing suggests the ground level when the building was constructed. We are also finding postmolds cut into the shell footings, suggesting that there were a number of supporting posts for the precarious tabby walls. We are also finding coquina blocks interspersed with tabby on the top of the footings. Preservation Architect Herschel Shepard, who is giving us invaluable architectural interpretation, suspects that this may represent a very early, and perhaps experimental, phase of tabby construction in St. Augustine.

Southwest corner of the building - not quite at right angle!



Some of the feature we thought were interior walls are actually narrow linear strips of rubble that are only a few centimeters thick. One of them has apparent postmolds cutting through it, and so maybe these very shallow features are actually accumulated rubble along a pillared walkway, or cloister.
We have also uncovered a curiously small walled area on the north side of the tabby section. It measures only about two meters by one meter, and is very close to the pump that covers the most powerful artesian well at the site. It provides water for the entire Mission and Shrine property. When the Franciscan friars visited last week, they told us that conventos and hermitages had to have a source of water quire nearby, not only for dining and washing, but especially for the sacraments.

Small stone wall feature on the north side of the tabby section.

RoxAnna and Allison have been excavating this rectangular feature, and found a broken glass bottle inside, about 20 centimeters below the top. It’s a case bottle – a square-sectioned bottle – of dark green glass. It could have been used for spirits, wine or medicine.  The same area had lots of animal bone and charcoal, and we are wondering if it may have been related to food preparation at the hermitage, conveniently close to a water source.





None of this would get done without the amazing volunteers who are contributing their time to this project. Excavating, screening soil, moving wheelbarrows and more.  There is a picture here of happy screeners (an unusual image) including our new(ish) County Archaeologist and Cultural Resources Coordinator, Mercedes Harrold. She spent the day working on the site with us and was lucky enough to be here when loyal volunteer and former Director of Mission Nombre de Dios – Eric Johnson – treated the crew to Pizza Friday! An earlier tradition, and one we hope to continue (even though work is a bit slowed down on Friday afternoon). Thanks, Eric!

Pizza Friday!

Visitors stopped by to ask RoxAnna about the project.
We have also been recovering a number of posts and pits from the pre-building (pre-1702) occupation of the Mission by people who made San Marcos pottery. They are presumed to have been Guale Indians. But that is a story for next week.

Text and images by Kathleen Deagan.

Check out all of the updates here:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Thanks to all of the sponsors who made this project possible!



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