Rediscovering The Alamo

More than a million people visit the iconic Alamo site annually, and many of them find the experience to be underwhelming. An archaeological investigation is playing an important role in an effort to improve the Alamo experience.

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Tourists look at artifacts on display inside the Alamo. Photo Courtesy: Reimagine the Alamo
Tourists look at artifacts on display inside the Alamo. Photo Courtesy: Reimagine the Alamo

Winter 2016: By Richard A. Marini.

During a month-long investigation of the old Alamo mission in downtown San Antonio this past summer a team of archaeologists found a portion of a collapsed adobe brick wall. “You could literally see that the bricks fell over as a single unit,” said San Antonio city archaeologist Kay Hindes, wearing her trademark pink hard hat. “They were still attached to one another. The mortar between them was visible and so were traces of lime wash on the outside.”

The wall likely fell around the time of the Battle of the Alamo between Mexican forces and the greatly outnumbered Texan rebels in 1836. That thirteen-day siege and battle inspired the war cry “Remember the Alamo” and secured the frontier mission’s place in history as an enduring symbol of resistance and freedom. “What we don’t know is whether the bricks were part of the compound wall itself or one of the small dwellings we know were in the area,” Hindes continued. “We also don’t know when it fell. Before the battle? During the battle? After? History tells us [Mexican General] Santa Anna ordered the Alamo walls to be taken down after the battle, but there are still many questions to be answered.”

The answers to those questions will have to wait, however, because this summer’s dig at two sites in the Alamo compound—one at the west wall where the collapsed bricks were found, and the other along the mission’s south wall—were designed to uncover other information. The findings of these excavations will inform the creation of a master plan called Reimagine the Alamo that will be a blueprint for a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the Alamo and its surrounding plaza. Intended to make a visit to the site a more rewarding and historically accurate experience, the Reimagine project will likely include construction of comprehensive interpretive exhibits, a world-class museum, and a visitors center—all of which the site currently lacks.

Excerpt.

Read More in our Winter 2016-2017 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 4. Browse Content of this Issue: Winter 2016-2017. Browse Articles Summaries from our last issue, Fall 2016

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