Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aviles Street – in 1572

Because of a street-widening and improvement project, the City Archaeologist, Carl Halbirt, has been able to dig extensively in Aviles Street ( a long-held ambition of his).  So far, we’ve found supporting posts of the west wall of the original parish church, Los Remedios, an exciting find because the few early maps that remain aren’t laid out in a way that makes it possible to determine the exact location of the buildings displayed on them.  Below, we see Carl digging the trench where we found one of the post holes.

Nuestra Señora de los Remedios was built in 1572, burned by Drake in 1586, rebuilt and then partially destroyed by another fire in 1699. At that point, the parish moved to the church of La Soledad on what is now St George Street, and what remained of Los Remedios was destroyed in 1702.  It was a wooden building, oriented east-west with the altar on the west end.  It may have had some form of apse, although we’re not sure about that yet.

IMGP0041 Over the weekend, we found human remains. It has long been known that there were burials under the old church floor, and in fact it was even possible to open a little door in the floor and look down on them in one of the old tourist attractions. However, this burial was either under the altar or parallel to it, head to the north, which was unlike the other burials. Furthermore, the body had been disinterred, and all that we found were bones from the feet and possibly hands, that is, extremities that probably fell off or were accidentally left behind when they disinterred the body. 

The identity of the person is a mystery. He was probably buried at the time that the first church was built, and possibly disturbed when church was rebuilt after Drake’s raid and then moved when the parish moved.  It must have been someone who was important to the early Spanish community, since the other bodies were left buried at the location of Los Remedios.  We can see the outline of the grave in which he was buried (the Spanish at that time in St Augustine generally buried people in shrouds and not in coffins), we have a few fragments of bone, and beyond that we know nothing. Because of the location of the burial, it is possible that this was one of the early priests of the St Augustine parish church, and in the photo above, we see city officials, archaeologists an the current pastor of the Cathedral examining the remains of what he referred to as “possibly one of his predecessors.”

The bones will be examined by the University of Florida and then reburied.