Presidio Santa María de Galve

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Village Excavations

1995 and 1996 village excavations consisted primarily of shovel testing the site although the 1996 crew did excavate several 3x6 foot units as well as a 15x15 foot unit. The first two years of village excavations proved that this area of the site was more disturbed than the fort area. Furthermore, the First Spanish lived in the village for under ten years and did not leave many remains. Excavations in 1997 and 1998 revealed First Spanish structural remnants in the west and south of the the village area. Field seasons were conducted in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998.


1995 Field Season

In 1995, the horizontal and vertical boundaries of the site were established through excavation and analysis of hundreds of shovel test units (small red squares on map below). The basic question that was addressed was the nature of the site as a physical and archaeological entity. In addition, architectural and refuse disposal activity areas were identified. The large red rectangular shape in the center towards the south of the map, behind a modern building, represents the area where several graves were found. It is the most likely place of the cemetery for the initial occupation of Presidio Santa Maria de Galve. Shovel tests in Areas D and E showed a "ring" pattern of First Spanish artifacts, such as Majolica fragments. This ring pattern, formed by a circle of dwellings with a common ground in the center, was not unusual in Spanish settlements in the New World. An unexpected discovery from the first research period was the abundant Indian pottery fragments. This indicated that Indians made up a sizeable part of the community. The pottery, however, revealed that the Indians were from outside the area and migrated here to be allied with or fight against the Spaniards at this settlement. The 1995 excavations also revealed that it is almost impossible to identify the three year French presence (1719-1722) from the artifacts alone.

Test units and Block E1

1996 Field Season

The goal for the 1996 excavations of Area E was to define the existence and delineate the boundaries of the First Spanish village associated with Presidio Santa Maria de Galve. In order to accomplish this goal, several 3x3 foot test units were excavated across the parade ground of the Defense Photography School based on the results of the 1995 shovel tests. After reestablishing the site grid, units were placed at 1297N 2603E, 1403N 2713E and 1497N 2803E. These first three units were excavated in arbitrary levels in order to better understand the stratigraphy of Area E. Based on these units and the results of other areas of the site, the stratigraphy of Area E was defined as follows: stratum one - mixed context and post-Civil War occupation zone of the site, stratum two - British, Second Spanish, Early American and Civil War occupation of the site, stratum three - First Spanish occupation/midden layer, stratum four - sterile brownish yellow soil, no occupation, possibly some leaching from stratum three.

An example of the layers of stratigraphy in Area E. The numbers represent the different strata described above.

The primary concern of the 1996 excavations was the location and characteristics of stratum three. However, the results of the 3x3 foot unit located at 1297N 2603E caused a minor shift in testing strategies for the summer. Possible burials were found in this unit, which shifted the focus from locating the village to determining the extent of the cemetery found in 1995. The unit at 1297N 2603E was expanded to a 15x15 foot unit (labeled Block E1) and the 3x3 foot testing was moved to the west in the area between Block E1 and the cemetery area. The excavation of Block E1 and the original 3x3 foot unit showed that the possible burials were in fact isolated bones associated with a much later feature. Although they were not necessary for the definition of the cemetery, the 3x3 foot units helped define the western and northern end of the village area. The southern area is bounded by the bluff line and the eastern boundary has been impacted by housing construction. The intensified testing for the location of the village outside the fort was ultimately unsuccessful. While there were clues, including the stratigraphy and artifact recovery, that the village lay somewhere in Area E, further excavation was required to be certain.

1997 Field Season

  • 1997TD1Features
  • 1997TD1West
  • 1997TrenchD1

Above: Map, students excavating, and structural features in Trench D1.

Although the 1996 field season led to a better understanding of the stratigraphy in the village area, the location of the village was not yet clear. Shovel testing was conducted at the beginning of the season to narrow down areas of higher midden concentrations. The best midden deposits with the least amount of disturbance occurred in the southeast portion of the parade ground in front of the former Defense Photography School so a 100x5 foot trench was placed in this area. Excavations revealed four wall trenches consisting of a row of small posts. Artifacts recovered from the wall trenches were pure First Spanish and included imported and Indian ceramics with Indian ceramics occurring in a higher proportion than in the fort.

Features in Blocks E2 and E3

1998 Field Season

Village excavations began in the northeast portion of the parade ground because further examination of 3x3 foot units excavated in 1996 led to a need for larger units in this area of the parade ground. Block E2 was centered around a 1996 test unit that had a probable wall feature and Block E3 was centered around a 1996 test unit that had one of the best middens in the village area. In the western area of the village, the remains of a dwelling and large fence line, nearly 80 feet long, were excavated. Both the fence and the dwelling were constructed by placing posts side by side (posts-in-a-row construction).

Block E2 Trash Pit

Along the fence line was a deep trash pit full of imported and Indian ceramics, food remains and a few silver cobs. Trash pits tell archaeologists a great deal about past lifeways. The Spanish often dug trash pits along the outer edges of their living areas and this trash pit, excavated near a dwelling, was no exception. The trash pit had layers of artifact-rich soil followed by thin layers of sterile fill, indicating that its owners dug a deep pit, threw trash in it, covered it up and repeated this until the pit was filled. The food remains recovered include deer and a large cow or buffalo. Artifacts are both Spanish and Indian in origin, indicating that a Spanish man and an Indian woman probably lived in the associated dwelling, also a common occurrence on colonial Spanish sites.