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Archaeological Investigations within San Pedro Springs Park (41BX19), San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
Center for Archaeological Research
The University of Texas at San Antonio Center for Archaeological Research (UTSA-CAR) contracted with Adams Environmental, Inc. to provide archaeological services to Capital Improvement Management (CIMS) of the City of San Antonio (COSA) related to the archaeological investigation of selected areas of San Pedro Springs Park in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The CAR conducted archaeological testing at this National Register Site, 41BX19, from early December 2013 to mid-January of 2014. The goals of archaeological investigations were to identify and investigate any proto-historic and historic archaeological deposits associated with Colonial Period occupants of the area, including evidence of the first acequia and associated dam, and the location of the first presidio and villa. In addition, CAR was tasked with the investigation of any prehistoric cultural deposits encountered. This project was performed by staff archaeologists from the CAR. It was conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 6727, with Dr. Steve Tomka serving as Principal Investigator (PI), and Kristi Nichols and Stephen Smith serving as Project Archaeologists. Dr. Tomka departed from UTSA shortly after the completion of fieldwork. At that time, Dr. Raymond Mauldin of CAR assumed PI responsibilities for the project.
One hundred and eleven shovel tests, eleven 1-x-1 m test units, two 50-x-50 cm units, two backhoe trenches, and several auger holes were excavated during this effort. Minimal artifactual evidence of colonial occupants was noted during the archaeological investigations. Several Native American bone tempered sherds that could reflect either Late Prehistoric Leon Plain or Goliad ware were recovered. However, no Spanish Majolicas or lead glazed wares were uncovered, and no gunflints were identified in the lithic assemblage. Due to various utility lines and other obstructions, backhoe trenches to search for the acequia and associated dam could not be excavated. It is likely that areas proposed for investigation of the acequia and associated dam have been disturbed by aforementioned utility lines as well as earlier construction within the park. No evidence of the specific location of the first presidio or villa was located. Shovel testing and test units revealed the presence of historic and prehistoric use of the park, though mixing of historic and prehistoric material, as well as other disturbances (e.g., rodents), was common in the deposits. However, there was an increase in prehistoric material with depth as revealed in shovel testing results. Shovel testing located Feature 1, a burned rock feature that possibly was associated with a sheet midden, as well as several areas with high densities of prehistoric materials. Test excavations, based on these shovel tests, suggest that Feature 1 is a discrete feature that lies below a widespread, low-density distribution of burned rock. Shovel testing also identified a high-density cluster of lithic, bone, and burned rock. The excavation of a 1-x-1 m test unit (TU 4) in this area produced over 4,000 pieces of debitage, with over 50% of this total coming from three levels. Burned rock, a variety of tools, faunal material, and charcoal were present throughout these levels.
Temporal placement of deposits relied on artifact typologies (e.g., ceramic types, lithic projectile points, lithic tool types) as well as two charcoal and four bone collagen radiocarbon dates. Artifact typologies suggest occupation as early as the Early Archaic as reflected by a possible Guadalupe tool. A series of Late Archaic Points (Castroville, Frio, Marcos, and Montell) and Late Prehistoric point forms (Edwards, Perdiz, and Scallorn) are present from several areas. In addition, a possible Middle Archaic La Jita point was recovered. The bone tempered Native American wares could date as early as AD 1250, though they could also reflect proto-historic or colonial age materials. Other ceramics primarily suggest a mid-nineteenth- to midtwentieth- century occupation. Using the midpoints of the 1-sigma distribution, calibrated radiocarbon dates show use of San Pedro Park from as early as 100 AD (CAR 345; 1905 +/- 22 Radiocarbon Years Before Present [RCYBP]) to as recently as the early twentieth century. The more recent end of that range is a function of two late dates from two different areas of the park. The first of these is on a bison bone (CAR 344) that returned a date of 158 +/- 23 RCYBP. The second is on a bone consistent with a bison-sized animal (CAR 346) that produced a date of 155 +/- 23 RCYBP. The corrected, calibrated dates for these two samples range from AD 1670 to the early 1940s using the 1-sigma spread. The wide range of these dates is related to the flat calibration curve late in time. However, the most probable date range (ca. 36% probability) for these two dates is between AD 1729 and 1779, with a roughly 48% probability that they date prior to AD 1779.
Limited testing suggests that, with a few specific exceptions, the upper 30-40 cm of San Pedro Park is extensively disturbed. However, though some disturbances are present, at least three areas have materials in what appears to be good context. These include material dating to the Late Archaic, Late Prehistoric, and possibly the Proto-historic or Colonial Period. Based on historic maps, previous work, and the current investigation, CAR proposes a series of management areas for San Pedro Park. If work in these management areas follows these suggestions for various limits on subsurface impacts, CAR recommends that renovation activities within the park be allowed to proceed. The Texas Historical Commission (THC), in a letter dated February 4, 2015, agreed with these recommendations. Finally, CAR provides several recommendations for public education facilities within the park.
In accordance with the THC Permit specifications and the Scope of Work for this project, all field notes, analytical notes, photographs, and other project related documents, along with a copy of the final report, will be curated at the CAR. After quantification and completion of analysis, and in consultation with THC and the COSA Office of Historic Preservation, artifacts possessing little scientific value were discarded pursuant to Chapter 26.27(g)(2) of the Antiquities Code of Texas. Artifact classes discarded specific to this project included samples of burned rock and snail shell, all unidentifiable metal, soil samples, and recent (post-1950) material.
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