Spanish colonial adobe bricks found at the Alamo

The Alamo Mission of San Antonio, location of an 1836 battle during the Texas Revolution that has attained legendary status and given the site reputation as “the shrine of Texas liberty,” is Texas’ greatest tourist draw, with approximately 2.5 million visitors a year. It isn’t in the greatest condition, however. Many of its walls were torn down and outbuildings burned by the retreating Mexican army when the war ended a few months after the Battle of the Alamo. Later construction, poor moisture control and political conflicts over ownership and restorations have left the complex in need of extensive refurbishing to emphasize its historical features. In conjunction with the 180th anniversary of the famous siege, the Reimagine the Alamo project seeks to effectuate much-needed renovations, repairing rotting wood beams and roof damage, removing eyesores like random storage shacks attached to the historic walls and condenser units and building new visitor and museum facilities.

As part of the Reimagine project, earlier this month archaeologists began the first systematic archaeological study of all five and a half acres of the Alamo complex. Only the the church and the lower floor of the long barracks of the 1836 fort still stand above ground. The project’s aim is to rediscover the footprint and any remains of the original 18th century Spanish mission, the Mission San Antonio de Valero, and the 19th century fortress, particularly the mission’s western and southern walls. They also hope to find materials from the mission period — ceramics, trash, glass, personal items — and from its military days — weapons, ammunition, household goods. The archaeology is integral to determining where the new facilities will be built and in the accuracy and rigor of the historical interpretation of the Alamo which last year was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The team started with a geophysical survey of the complex, using ground penetrating radar to narrow down areas of interest. Then they raised the flagstone pavers and began digging. On July 22nd, the excavation team unearthed the remnants of an adobe brick wall 23 inches below the surface. The Spanish colonial adobe bricks were found in what archaeologists believe was the location of the original mission’s west wall.

Discovery of the bricks on Friday marked a major step toward uncovering the construction history of the world-famous Texas landmark.

“Because we’ve got something from the Spanish colonial period, we know we are digging in the right place,” archaeologist Nesta Anderson said in a press conference Monday. “Now we know we can get information from the ground over here that will support the master plan and the reinterpretation.”

Adobe is very delicate and soft and these bricks have been hard-used by centuries of conflict and the elements. The team is studying the bricks to confirm their Spanish origin, pin down the date of construction and determine the wall’s place in the structure of the 18th century mission. As far as we know, the mission didn’t have a full exterior wall around its perimeter. Instead, the walls of some of the buildings became defacto outside walls. If the adobe bricks were not part of the western wall, they could have been part of another building on the mission grounds or even one of the Native American dwellings that grew up around the mission.

Here’s a short video of an archaeologist pointing out the adobe bricks in the trench.


The excavation is scheduled to last four weeks. For regular updates on the dig, follow Reimagine the Alamo’s Facebook page.

5 thoughts on “Spanish colonial adobe bricks found at the Alamo

  1. “to effectuate” Oh dear, oh dear. Still, I’ll forgive you. I’m not sure that it’s any worse than the Australian “to eventuate” i.e. to happen.

  2. When I was first married we were stationed in SA, and hung out a lot down around the Alamo. That was in the early ’50s. The whole area, including the river walk and a number of saloons, had a shabby charm that delighted us. The restoratistas wanted to Disney it up back then, and Disneyland hadn’t even opened. Looks like they may finally get their way.

  3. Sigh. The “Texas Revolution” was fought by the “Anglo-Texans” (those from the U.S. and territories) to maintain slavery after Mexico threatened to abolish it. While some of the defenders who took their last stand in the mission did so bravely, their cause was far from just, stinking far worse than that 17th-century Swedish cheese.

  4. The rise of abolitionist sentiment in Britain was one of the causes of an earlier American war. Or so opine some historians who presumably don’t expect their books to sell well in the US.

  5. The stated purpose of this article was to discuss archeology at the Alamo. Trouble had been brewing in Coahuila y Tejas for a number of years after the revolt against Spain in 1819. After 1824 the Tejanos had scant representation in a legislative body far away in Coahuila. Later Santa Anna abolished even that, moving all government to Mexico City. (Santa Anna was crooked as a dog’s hind leg.) Prominent (read wealthy) Tejanos were agitated and wanted the previous federalist governmental structure back even before the Texians started arriving circa 1830. Some of those Tejanos fought at the Alamo alongside the Texians. Besides requiring conversion to Catholicism, slavery was banned in the Texas colonies. One of my family members signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, and his son was killed in the Goliad Massacre. Seventh generation Texan
    and archeologist, B

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