Archeology Onsite: Tovar House Chronicles, Week 3


Archeological dig in process.

Greg at work.

Today, I wandered back into Tovar House to check on the live dig. The scene had changed dramatically since I’d last visited; piles of organized dirt covered the main room. There were small pathways that led to two holes in the floor, exposing centuries of construction.

Greg was standing in a new hole, taking measurements. He pointed to the subfloor–a mix of shell and other miscellaneous pieces of rubble. “The subfloor is an everything plus the kitchen sink tactic,” he said. Later, he added that the subfloor was used to even out elevation issues.

He brought me over to the first hole–the one we discussed last time. I plopped myself down on the ground at the edge, peering into the layers of dirt and shell.

While I could see that there were layers, I was unsure of what those layers signified. Luckily, the Tovar House excavation crew is patient, and more importantly, excited to share their findings with newbie like me. And this week, there was a a lot to share.

Archeology Onsite: Tovar House Chronicles, Week 3 2For years, our textual evidence has led us to believe that the current structure–what we today refer to as the Tovar House– dated back to the first Spanish period in St. Augustine. We know there was a structure on the site where Tovar House house is today because of Juan José Elixio de la Puente’s 1764 map. This map is significant to St. Augustine’s history because it outlined property ownership, documenting the placement of Spanish structures as the city came under British rule.

It turns out, what the Tovar excavation crew unearthed changes things dramatically.

Greg showed me the “different construction episodes” present in the new uncovered layers. What we identify today as the Tovar House is likely a British structure built on the foundation of an earlier Spanish building. Of course, there will need to be additional analysis before the house can be officially declared a British colonial structure.

One of the ways that the Tovar House excavation crew has been able to determine the time period of the different floors is by analyzing soil samples. The team carefully screens soil from

dig site

different layers and removes artifacts, meticulously logging all

the findings. “We found a piece of pottery dating back to 1780–well after the first Spanish period,” Greg said. The late eighteenth century piece of pottery was found in one of the upper layers of the excavation, meaning that layer of the floor was installed by British residents.

This new evidence has the dig site alive with chatter.

“It is great because everyone gets together to compare notes and shares interpretations,” Greg said. The various floor layers raise more questions–better questions, which is always the goal of research.

It’s only week three of the dig. I’ll be back next week to chat about some of the other items and structural nuances.