Southern Texas Archaeological Association
February 4, 2017
Archaeological Investigations of Two Spanish Colonial Dams in Brackenridge Park-
Clint McKenzie, UTSA
Acequias, or irrigation ditches, were constructed within the first few years of San Antonio’s founding, playing an important role in the development and success of the settlement. Water was diverted from the San Antonio River by a dam for each acequia, allowing for the irrigation of the surrounding landscape. The integrity of an acequia relied upon several factors, including constant maintenance and an effective dam. Recent archaeological investigations in Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, have elucidated the construction methods, use, and eventual abandonment of two such Spanish Colonial dams. Moreover, excavations not only revealed the Spanish Colonial construction, but also showed later 19th century additions, and the abandonment in the early 20th century. This work has provided an important insight into the vital role these acequias played in sustaining an urban population.
Clint McKenzie is a Project Archaeologist for UTSA-CAR and currently enrolled in the PhD program where his focus is on Spanish Colonial archaeology. He is a lifelong resident of San Antonio, past Chair of the Southern Texas Archaeological Association, TAS member, and a member of the Texas Archeological Stewardship Network.
Battle of Béxar
Rich Curilla, for many years, has had the desire to tell the largely unheralded story of the Siege and Battle of Bexar. He regards it as the missing first act of the three-act Texas War of Independence, completely overshadowed by the last stand at the Alamo and victory at San Jacinto. Amazingly, in addition to being the source of his PowerPoint visuals for this program, playing out the actions on his Virtual San Antonio de Bexar model has helped him fill in story holes in the previously understood narrative of this house-to-house battle.
The virtual 3D model Curilla has created was carefully laid down in SketchUp over a mosaic of satellite images in order to accurately place all streets, roads, plazas, waterways and land features. Then details were modified to show 19th century pre-flood control river bends, road variations, acequia paths, etc. This was accomplished using highly accurate sources such as the 1846 Sandcliff map and the 1912 John Rullman map. The Spanish-Colonial period buildings were individually constructed as accurately as possible from early paintings, drawings and photographs. Many were measured and placed on lots that were also measured using the 1877 and 1885 Sanborn insurance maps. These also helped pin down acequia paths. His foot-accurate layout of the Alamo compound was assembled from the 1849 Francois Giraud survey plat and the invaluable archaeological dig, research and conclusions of Jake Ivey. It also incorporates conclusions drawn recently by the independent researchers Richard Range, Craig Covner and Mike Harris. This included the retranslation of appropriate Valero mission inventories providing a different understanding of part of the West Wall. The wonderful advantage of Rich Curilla’s model is that it can be used to “try on” new theories and discoveries.
Since 1988, Rich Curilla has been historian, entertainment director and motion picture production liaison at Alamo Village, the movie set built near Brackettville, Texas for John Wayne’s epic 1960 motion picture The Alamo. A graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Theater and Film, he has also had a life-long interest in the history of the Alamo and its movies. This passion, as well as an equal fascination with the Spanish-Colonial town of San Antonio de Bexar itself, put him in touch with Hollywood production designer Michael Corenblith for whom he was historical consultant during the set design phase of the 2004 John Lee Hancock film The Alamo. Corenblith later introduced him to the architectural design application SketchUp which Curilla has used to create his highly accurate 3D model of 1835-1836 San Antonio. This model became his own virtual movie set for the visuals in this presentation as well as a unique research tool.
THE MONTERREY SHIPWRECKS PROJECT: THREE EARLY 19TH CENTURY WRECKS SUNKEN DEEP IN THE GULF OF MEXICO
Amy Borgens, Texas Historical Commission
Lying at a depth of 4,300 feet off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico are the remains of three early 19th century shipwrecks, laden with a wide array of artifacts, from arms to tanned hides. Following discovery in 2011 and documentation in 2012, a privately-funded collaboration of federal, state, and academic institutions carried out a detailed mapping effort of the first shipwreck, Monterrey A, and recovered potentially diagnostic artifacts in 2013. This fieldwork also provided the opportunity to document two nearby shipwrecks never before investigated. The new sites, Monterey B and C, were more fully documented in 2014. The project’s multidisciplinary approach is answering questions about not only the shipwrecks themselves, but is also examining the broader context of maritime activity in the Gulf region during a time of economic expansion and political transition, as well as site formation processes in the deep ocean environment.
Amy Borgens was appointed State Marine Archaeologist at the Texas Historical Commission in June 2010.As the State Marine Archaeologist, Amy is responsible for the preservation, protection, and investigation of shipwrecks in all state-owned waters. She earned a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Purdue University and received her master's degree from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. She has worked in the field of Texas and Gulf of Mexico maritime archaeology since 1997 and has been associated with notable shipwreck projects in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Canada, and Turkey, including La Belle (1684), HMS Princess Charlotte (1814), Heroine (1838) and USS Westfield (1863). In addition, she participated in the remotely operated vehicle investigations of four early 19th-century shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Mardi Gras Shipwreck and Monterrey Shipwrecks.
ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE PLAZA DE LAS ISLAS (MAIN PLAZA)
Casey Hanson, PhD Candidate, University of Texas-Austin
The City of San Antonio’s Main Plaza has been the central landscape for the development of the city and its diverse inhabitants since the Canary Islanders arrived in 1731. Archaeological explorations in the plaza in 2007 have provided insight into how early residents used this space through the artifacts they left behind. Much of this information points to daily life for the people of the plaza, including how people may have used material culture to express their sense of identity and status as well as how the community used the plaza’s landscape over time.
Casey Hanson is an archaeologist currently working on his PhD at the University of Texas, Austin. His dissertation research is based on the Main Plaza excavations and examines identity formation in 18th and 19th century Texas. Casey received his BA from Texas A&M in 2003, and his MA from the University of Texas, Austin in 2010. Casey served as the Project Archaeologist for the Main Plaza excavations.
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