Archaeological Investigations Associated with Mission San Juan (41BX5) Church Underpinning, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas: Volume I




Nichols, Kristi M.
Munoz, Cynthia M.
Wack, Lynn K.
Barkwill Love, Lori
Tomka, Steve A.
Luzmoor, Mark P.
Mauldin, Raymond P.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio


The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) was contracted by Pugh Constructors, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, to conduct archaeological investigations in association with the underpinning of the current church walls at Mission San Juan de Capistrano (41BX5) located in Bexar County, Texas. The archaeological work, conducted under the requirements of the Texas Antiquities Code, was performed under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 6040. Dr. Steve Tomka served as Principal Investigator for much of the project. He, along with Project Archaeologist Kristi Miller Nichols, designed and executed the fieldwork, as well as the initial laboratory processing and analysis. The field portion of the project was conducted in four phases. Phase 1 consisted of the excavation of 14 1-x-1 m test units arranged in six blocks around the perimeter of the church. The goal of this portion of the project was to determine the extent of cultural deposits around the church, the terminal depth of the church foundation, and to document features. Test unit excavations removed 16.3 m3 of sediment resulting in 179 artifacts/m3 and 387 gm of faunal material/m3 of screened soil. The excavations revealed that the majority of the sediments along the east and north walls of the church have been previously disturbed from utility installations, previously dug trenches, and human interments. The vertical distribution of cultural material recovered in units along the south wall of the church suggests that the upper 50 cm of sediment may contain a “midden deposit” including both Colonial and Post-Colonial artifacts. Initially, CAR personnel also thought that the testing identified an upper and a lower strata at various locations, with the lower strata potentially reflecting Colonial material, and the upper strata being mixed. Testing documented a previously identified Colonial wall along the southeast corner of the church, and a shelf-like stone protrusion was uncovered in two test units on the west wall of the church. The base of the church foundation, uncovered in five test units, ranged from 1.4 m below the surface (mbs) along the northeast wall to 1.7-1.9 mbs along the northwest wall to 1.8 mbs on the south wall to 2.0 mbs on the north wall. Phase 2 involved the excavation of four backhoe trenches to obtain additional data on the terminal depth of the church’s foundation and further explore the Colonial wall exposed in Phase 1. The base of the foundation was uncovered at 1.55 mbs on the southwest side of the church and at 1.60 mbs on the southeast side. CAR archaeologists monitored the mechanical removal of and partially screened the matrix from around the perimeter of the church during Phase 3. This removal and screening was conducted in sections and screened by the upper and lower strata distinction. A high concentration of artifacts and faunal material recovered from the south wall of the church supports the Phase 1 findings that the area likely contains a midden. Large amounts of faunal material suggest a second midden deposit along the southwest wall of the church. Buried walls and foundations from earlier structures were exposed on the northwest corner of the church. However, the distinctions between upper and lower strata, with the lower strata reflecting Colonial material, proved to be spurious. Phase 4 consisted of the hand-excavation of human remains that were exposed along the northeast side of the church wall between Buttresses 1 and 5 during the Phase 2 and 3 excavations. Seventeen articulated burials and disassociated human bone representing a minimum of 12 additional individuals were removed. All of the human remains and their associated grave items were stored and analyzed at the Tufa House located on the grounds of Mission San Juan. Upon the completion of the project, custody of the human remains and associated grave goods was transferred to the Tap Pilam, a local Native American group associated with the Coahuiltecans. The burials were reinterred at the close of the project on the San Juan property. A reburial ceremony arranged by the Archdiocese, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Tap Pilam was held on February 23, 2013. In the spring of 2014, both Dr. Tomka and Kristi Nichols left CAR. Dr. Raymond Mauldin assumed Permit responsibilities for the project. At that time, a preliminary draft of a report was present. Cynthia Munoz, assisted by Dr. Mauldin, completed an extensively revised draft over the summer of 2014. That draft was submitted for review to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and the NPS. We have incorporated all review comments into this final document. Note that all archaeological samples, artifacts, documents, notes, and photographs were prepared for curation according to NPS and THC guidelines. These materials are permanently curated at the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Volume I. Chapter 1: Introduction. Chapter 2: Project Overview. Chapter 3: Previous Archaeology. Chapter 4: Field and Laboratory Methodology. Chapter 5: Results of Phases 1, 2, and 3. Chapter 6: Artifact Descriptions. Chapter 7: Macroscopic Analysis of Goliad Ware. Chapter 8: Petrographic Analysis of Goliad Ware. Chapter 9: Lithic Technology at San Juan Capistrano. Chapter 10: Vertebrate Faunal Remains. Chapter 11: Results of Phase 4 – Removal of Human Remains. Chapter 12: Bioarchaeological Analysis of Human Remains. Chapter 13: Summary of Results and Interpretations



archaeological investigation, archaeology, Texas archaeology, archaeological surveying, excavations, Bexar County, San Antonio, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Coahuiltecans, Tap Pilam, human remains