Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Wakeman/Heritage House, Block 28 Lot 1, Archaeology
Title: Three Sixteenth Century Burials from St. Augustine, Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00094838/00006
 Material Information
Title: Three Sixteenth Century Burials from St. Augustine, Florida A Preliminary Report
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Wakeman/Heritage House, Block 28 Lot 1, Archaeology
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Creator: Jackson Bell, Valerie
Publication Date: 1989
Physical Location:
Box: 7
Divider: Block 28 Lot 1 (Heritage House)
Folder: Wakeman/Heritage House, B28 L1, Archaeology
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
1 Aviles Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Heritage House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Wakeman House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 1 Aviles Street
Coordinates: 29.892097 x -81.311584
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094838
Volume ID: VID00006
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: B28-L1

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Full Text


A Preliminary Report

Valerie Jackson Bell

Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board

The site designated as SA 23 is located in the first city

block south of the Plaza in the Historic District of St.

Augustine, Florida (Figure 1). The site is bounded on the north

by King Street, on the east by Calle Menendez, on the south by

Artillery Lane, and on the west by Charlotte Street. The northern

half of the site is currently covered by a multi-storied

structure that was built, in phases, between 1880 and 1950. The

area investigated is located to the south of this structure. The

site had been used as a parking lot from approximately 1930 to

1986. The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1930, 1924, 1917,

1904, 1899, 1893, 1888, 1884 (Figure 2), and maps drawn in 1834,

1788, and 1764 (Figure 3) show a variety of small structures

located on the southern portion of SA 23.

The developers of the property approached the Historic St.

Augustine Preservation Board in November of 1985 to inquire if

the Board would be interested in examining the site prior to

construction. Staff Archaeologist, Stanley Bond, Jr. and

volunteers from the St. Augustine Archaeological Association

began excavations in January 1986 (report in progress). The

proposed excavations were to be carried out only within those

areas to be impacted by construction or utility trenches.

Throughout the five months spent on the site, architectural

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IGURE 3 Detail f area frm 1834/5, 1 and 174 aps
FIGURE 3 Detail cof area from 1834/5, 1788, and 1764 maps.

revisions changed the location of these impacted areas. It was

the re-location of one building that precipitated the discovery

of the three skeletons some weeks after archaeological work on

the site had been completed.


Site SA 23 is situated within the boundaries of the original

sixteenth century settlement (Deagan 1983: Figure 1). The site is

known to have bordered an area where burials were recovered in

1924, 1971, and 1979 (St. Augustine Record 7-30-1924, 8-1-1924;

Dailey and Morse; 1971; Cabellero 1979; Zierden 1979; Steinbach

personal communication). The earliest known extant map of the

settlement was produced in 1586 by an Italian living in London,

Baptista Boazio. Boazio's map (Figure 4) was produced to record

the raid by Sir Francis Drake when he burned the village and its

wooden fort. This map appears quite accurate in the recording of

geographic details, such as the location of the community just

south of a small cove. This location is consistent with later

maps and archaeologically recovered data. A church is clearly

marked on the Boazio map as being located at the northern edge of

the settlement. By comparing the relative location of the cove on

later maps, such as the 1764 Puente map (Figure 5), the church

would have most likely been built near the modern intersection of

King Street and Charlotte or Aviles Streets.

While there is no clear indication of a graveyard on the

Boazio map, Catholic tradition and Spanish law would have placed

the cemetery on church property (Harmer 1963: 61; Stone 1858: 86-

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87, from Koch 1960). Larsen's excavations of the sixteenth and

seventeenth century church at Santa Catalina de Guale indicate a

preference for sub-floor Christian burial (Larsen 1987). At the

later seventeenth century church in St. Augustine, Nuestra Senora

de la Soledad, burials were either sub-floor or located just to

the north of the building (Deagan 1983: 220-221). This data would

lead to the expectation that the SA 23 burials were either sub-

floor or to the north of the church indicated on the Boazio map.

No archaeological evidence has been recovered, to date, that

indicates the exact location of this 1586 church. Numerous

burials, however, have been recovered from the general area. The

first know encounter with skeletal material dates from 1924

during the installation of sewer pipes on Charlotte Street. There

is no data on the exact location, type, condition, or orientation

of the six to nine skeletons disturbed during construction. In

1971 Hale Smith of Florida State University recovered skeletal

material from fifteen burials on SA 28-1, a site to the north-

west of SA 23 (Figure 1). Only six of these burials have any

notation of orientation. Five are recorded as having the skull to

the east and one with the skull to the south. No artifacts were

recorded with the burials. It was speculated that the burials

were associated with one or both of the eighteenth century

military hospitals located on the western side of SA 28-1

(Steinbach, personal communication).

The four burials noted from the 1979 excavations on SA 28-1

record that two articulated skeletons were oriented with skulls

to the west, as seen with the three skeletons from SA 23, one was

aisarticulated wlth no orientation noted. A fourth, incomplete

burial is noted as having the proximal ends of the femurs in the

eastern balk (Zierden 1979: 7 and personal communication). The

two articulated burials are given a late sixteenth century date

by Zierden. Given that date, it can be presumed that they were

associated with the Boazio church.

Excavations of the burials from SA 23 did not occur until

June 1986 when an architectural change required a pit for grease

trap to be excavated on the western edge of the site and a

foundation trench be dug approximately three meters north of the

area where archaeological work had been completed. It was un-

necessary at the time to inform the archaeologists of the

changes. However, when the construction crew encountered the

bones they immediately ceased their work and advised the

Preservation Board.

The bones (phalanges) were determined to be human and all

construction work was halted in the immediate area. The County

Coroner was advised of the discovery, and that the bones predated

his jurisdiction by a few hundred years. The Catholic diocese was

also notified because it was believed that the burials were from

a Catholic cemetery. A priest visited the site and conducted the

Catholic rite for the exhumation of bodies.


Field data:

The preliminary excavation was conducted within the existing

footer dug by the construction crew. This trench was later

expanded to the south in order to recover two skeletons intruding

on the first burial. The location of all burials was plotted on

the existing SA 23 site plan. Vertical control was established

with the use of a transit tied to the bench mark located on the

Bridge of Lions. Excavations were conducted in accordance with

professional standards. A complete photographic record was made

of the excavation. All data from this field work is housed in the

collections of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. The

bones will be returned to the Catholic Church for re-interment

when all analysis is complete.


The bones of the three burials were in fair to poor

condition. One possible reason for the poor preservation would

be the extreme shallowness of the burials. The bones were en-

countered at approximately 25 centimeters below the modern

surface. This is a similar depth as reported for the burials on

SA 28-1 (Zierden 1979: 7). The condition of bones from SA 28-1

was also relatively poor. (Caballero 1979). It appears from the

condition of SA 23 that as much as 50 centimeters of top soil may

have been removed, probably in the late nineteenth or early

twentieth century. The site was not paved until the 1950's.

Prior to that time the bones were subjected to years of leaching

action. A second factor contributing to their deteriorated

condition could be attributed to pressure exerted by vehicles

using the parking lot.

A solution of white glue and distilled water (about 50/50)

was applied to the exposed, cleaned bones to help stabilize the

bones prior to removal. During excavation the bones were covered

with damp cloths and the area shaded. All three burials were

treated in the same manner.


Burial #1

This burial consisted of a complete skeleton. The right

humerus, radius, ulna, and phalanges had been disturbed by

construction workers. The cranium had been disturbed at an

earlier date, probably during the construction of a nearby

nineteenth century well. At that time the top portion of the

skull was neatly cut off just above the supra orbital torus and

was found tucked beneath the facial portion of the skull. The

facial bones were crushed, again most likely during the

nineteenth century intrusion.

The burial was fully extended, with both arms crossed over

the upper torso (Figure 6). It appears that the arms slipped

slightly when the body was lowered into the grave, as the left

hand was located over the abdominal region. Zierden notes similar

placement of the hands in the burial recovered from SA 28-1

(Zierden 1979: 7). The legs were straight and the feet were


Buri ..:.1 itl

apparently encased in shoes as the bones of both feet had fallen

into an indistinguishable, but undisturbed jumble.

Some field measurement were taken, but due to the condition

of the skull no cranial measurements were made. The femurs were

approximately 47 centimeters in length. The right femur head was

too damaged to measure, the left measured approximately 4.8

centimeters in diameter. From the base of the calcaneus to

approximately the superciliary arch on the skull the skeleton

measured 170 centimeters.

Age of the deceased is estimated to be between 25 and 40

years. All epiphyses were fused and the teeth showed moderate


The configuration of the remains of the supra orbital torus

and the nuchal ridge indicated the individual was male. Other

bones were in too poor a condition to serve as reliable sex

indicators. While not a totally reliable indicator in a small

sample, the incisors do not appear to show the "shovel-shaped"

characteristic, pointing to European descent.

Artifacts found in association with the bones lead to the

conclusion that the body was a male Spaniard. These artifacts

include five ball-type steel buttons (Figure 7) similar to those

described by Stanley South from Ft. San Felipe (South 1985: 522).

The buttons, sometimes referred to as "acero", were located on

the upper torso and under the mandible. Their location would

seem to indicate the buttons were attached to a shirt. Three iron

clasps or buckles (Figure 8) were found in the waist area and

appear to have served as trouser or belt fasteners. X-ray



FIGURE 7 "Acero" buttons found associated with Burial t1.

FIGURE 8 Untreated buckle found associated with Burial #1.

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FIGURE 9 X-Rays of buckles and loop.

1 II I ii 1 II 1 111 12 1 t1 l1 1 1
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FIGURE 10 Copper lacing tip.

FIGURE 11 Untreated object from left hand of Burial #1.

FIGURE 12 X-ray of object from left hand and similar pieces
found associated with Burial #1.

photographs revealed the artifacts more clearly (Figure 9).

They appear to manifest characteristics typical of sixteenth

century design (Deagan: personal communication). A fourth iron

fragment of undetermined function was recovered from the torso

area. Copper lacing tips (Figure 10) were found in the central

and lower torso. Two small, heavily oxidized iron fragments were

found in the left mid-torso region. In the left hand another

highly oxidized fragment was recovered (Figure 11). X-ray

examination revealed all three fragments to be decorative objects

of similar design (Figure 12). The one held in the left hand had

a small chain attached. Identification of these pieces is not

clear. Suggestions have been made that they may be of a religious

nature, perhaps associated with a crucifix. No similar artifacts

have been located in the literature.

It is possible the body may have been embalmed, A small lump

of what appears to be the residue of an unguent was found in the

right chest cavity. When freshly exposed, the substance had a

greasy texture. Analysis is incomplete.

A lensing of oyster shell was found in association with the

bones of this burial. The shells were located between the legs

and around the skull, particularly inside the mouth. This

association probably occurred when the skull was disturbed by the

construction of the nearby nineteenth century well. The shell

lens continued to the south and appears to have some connection

with the double burial designated Burials #2 and #3.

When Burial #1 was interred, an earlier double burial was

disturbed. Disassociated bones were found below Burial #1.

Further investigation revealed the double burial directly to the

south of the first.

Burial 42 and #3

These two individuals were interred together. (Figure 13 and

14). Both skeletons were undisturbed except for the leg bones of

Burial #2, as noted above. The two bodies were placed, apparently

without much ceremony, into a small pit. No outline of this pit

could be clearly discerned except for a lens of oyster shell on

the western edge. The eastern edge could be approximated by

position of the bodies and the angle of the feet from Burial #2.

The fill was the same yellow sterile sand as the surrounding

matrix. The two bodies were in a flexed position, with the legs

drawn up towards the chest and the arms loose at the sides. One

body was dropped into the pit and the second placed directly over

the first. The heads were oriented to the west with the bodies

twisted slightly to the south. No artifacts were found in

association with either burial.

Burial #2

The long bones of this skeleton appear to be in somewhat

better condition than those of Burial #1. The ribs were the least

stable and crumbled when removed. The skull had been weaken on

the left side and was partially collapsed. It has not been

determined if this occurred after interment or was caused by a

blow in life, perhaps the cause of death.

FIGURE 13 Burial #2,

with part

of skull and bones of Burial #3

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Measurements were made for some cranial points. The mandible

has an ascending ramus of approximately 6.5 centimeters. The

horizontal ramus in approximately 10 centimeters. The biconial

breadth is 10 centimeters, the bicondyler breadth 12.3 centi-

meters and the symphysis height 3.1 centimeters. All thirty-two

teeth were present. The teeth show considerable abrasion and the

individual may have suffered from some gum disease as there was

bone recession at the gum line. The incisors appear to be

"shovel-shaped." The palate was crushed and measurements were

not possible. Both the left and right femurs measured

approximately 47 centimeters. The maximum diameter of the right

femur head is 4.5 centimeter, the left was in too poor a

condition to accurately measure.

The sex of this individual was determined to be male from

field observation of the configuration of the skull and from

analysis of fragments in the lab. Age was set at over 25 based on

the condition of the epiphyseal closure and dentition.

Burial #3

The was the first of the two bodies to be interred. The

condition of the bones was relatively good, except for the skull.

The cranium cavity had never filled with sand and, when exposed

to the air, the fragile frontal bones began to deteriorate and


Field measurements of the cranium had not been made prior to

collapse, but measurements were later taken from the palate and

mandible. The height of the ascending ramus is approximately 6.5

centimeters and the horizontal ramus measures approximately 8.0

centimeters. The bigonial breadth is 9.5 centimeters and the

bicondylar breadth is approximately 12.5 centimeters. The

symphysis height is 5.8 centimeters. The individual had all

thirty-two teeth. The teeth were heavily worn but showed no sign

of obvious disease. The second molar on the right side had been

broken late in life and the third molar on the same side was

underdeveloped. The individual appears to have suffered from some

gum disease. Again, the insisors appear to be "shovel-shaped."

For comparative purposes the femurs were also measured. Both

were approximately 31 centimeters in length, exact measurements

were not possible because of the poor condition of the distal

ends. The maximum diameter of the femur heads were 4.2 for the

left and 4.3 for the right.

The sex of this burial was determined to be female. The

skull showed a smooth frontal bone and lacked the pronounced

torus of the male. The chin is more rounded with a point at the

midline, common in females. At the base of the skull the nuchal

bone was not developed. Age was estimated to be over 25, again

based on the condition of the epiphyseals and dentition.


Investigation just to the south of the double burial

revealed a pit outline with the proximal end of a long bone

exposed. It was not determined if the bone was human. The area

was not scheduled to be impacted by construction trenching, but

was to be covered with a concrete slab, and was therefore left in

situ. The owner of the property was advised of the possibility of

a fourth burial in the area.

A north-south and a east-west foundation trench was dug

between the south wall of the existing building and the burials.

No burials were located. A series of shallow daub concentrations

that may have been associated with the sixteenth century church

construction were found (Figure 15). Disturbed soil relating to

eighteenth and nineteenth century construction were also


A large "grease trap" was dug to the west of the burials

without supervision of the archaeologists. No bones and only a

few eighteenth century artifacts were recovered from that area.

To the south and west of the burials a number of daub pits and

post hole molds had been located during the earlier excavations

on the site. Daub pits are commonly found in close approximation

to sixteenth and seventeenth century wattle-and-daub structures

(Deagan: personal communication) and it can be presumed that

these pits also were associated with such a structure. The

material recovered from the earlier excavations on SA 23 is still

being analyzed, but preliminary observation indicates that there

is little artifactual material associated with any of the

features in question. As we have no maps prior to 1764 that

accurately depict the area, it is impossible to speculate if

these features are associated with the sixteenth century church

or other unknown seventeenth century structures. The Puente map

indicated that there were no structures on this section of the

lot by 1764.


It appears that the three burials excavated from SA 23 may

be isolated in time from the fifteen burials recovered on SA 28-1

in 1971. Those burials are believed to be associated with the

eighteenth century military hospitals (Steinbach: personal

communication). The burials from SA 23 may have been associated

with those disturbed in 1924, but there are no records to help

confirm this idea. Zierden concludes that the burials recovered

from SA 28-1 in 1979 were from a sixteenth century context

(Zierden 1979:7). The orientation of those burials corresponds

with the burials recovered from SA 23. Artifacts associated with

the extended burial (Burial #1) from SA 23 definitely place it in

a sixteenth century context. The double burial pre-dates the

extended burial, but there is no reason to believe that it is


It has been suggested that the double burial might be of

unbaptized aboriginals or other non-Catholics buried in un-

sanctified ground. If this is the case the area would have been

sanctified soon after in order to account for Christian-style

Burial #1. It was certainly sanctified by 1586 when the church

was located in the area. It has also been suggested that the

double burial might have been of victims of warfare or epidemic.

The three burials in of themselves do not indicate the

location of the sixteenth century church depicted on the Boazio

map. At the sixteenth century mission site of Santa Catalina the

Christian burials were recovered sub-floor. The burials were

oriented with their feet towards the altar, or east-southeast.

All undisturbed, primary burials were in the traditional Catholic

manner, extended with arms crossed over the chest (New Catholic

Encyclopedia: 895). There were no burials similar to the double

burial of SA 23 (Larsen 1986: manuscript). At the seventeenth

century St. Augustine church of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad,

burials were recovered both sub-floor and to the north of the

church. The church was oriented east-west with the sacristy

probably on the western end. As at Santa Catalina, the heads were

oriented to the east, facing the altar (Koch 1980: 131). The

sixteenth century burials from SA 28-1 and those from SA 23 have

the opposite orientation. Foster notes that, although uncommon,

in northern and northwestern Spain burials were sometimes

interred with the feet to the east, away from the village.

(Foster 1960:148).

The burials recovered from SA 28-1 in 1979 were on the west

side of Charlotte Street and approximately 30 meters north of the

three recovered from SA 23. If they are sub-floor burials, then

the church structure would have been located somewhere north of

Artillery Lane, perhaps crossing Charlotte Street. Due to

existing structures in this area, there is little hope of

recovering evidence for the exact location of the church. The

only area available for study is the north end of SA 24 at the

corners of Charlotte Street and Artillery Lane.

When all analysis of the bones is completed, they will be

returned to the Catholic diocese of St. Augustine for final



I would like to thank Dr. Danita Thomas, not only for her

help in field identification of bones, but also for the use of

her X-ray equipment to study the metal artifacts recovered with

Burial #1. Frank Diaz DMD assisted with dental identification.

I would also like to thank Sue Smith for her work on the

measurements of the skeletal material. Lastly, I would like to

thank the members of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association

for their support and help in this and other archaeological

projects in St. Augustine.



1968 "First Hospital U.S.A.," Florida Health Notes 60 (2).

Bass, William M.

1971 Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual of the

Human Skeleton. Missouri Archaeological Society.

Bellomo, Randy V.

1977 "Comparative Study of the Skeletal Remains of Both

Coffin and Shroud Burials in SA 36-7," unpublished

manuscript on file with HSAPB.

Cabellero, Olga Maria

1979 "SA 28-1: Burial #1, a skeletal analysis," unpublished

manuscript on file with HSAPB.

Dailey, R. C. and David Morse

1972 "A Preliminary report of skeletal remains found at site

B (SA 28-1) in St. Augustine, Florida," unpublished

manuscript on file with HSAPB.

Deagan, Kathleen

1978 "Archaeological Strategy in the Investigation of an

Unknown Era: Sixteenth Century St. Augustine." Project

to the St. Augustine Restoration Foundation, Inc.,"

unpublished manuscript on file with HSAPB.

1983 Spanish St. Augustine: The Archaeology of a Colonial

Creole Community. Academic Press, New York.

Foster, George M.

1960 Culture and Conquest: America's Spanish Heritage.

Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, No. 27.

Hoffman, Paul

1977 "St. Augustine 1580: The Research Project." El

Escribano Vol 14, St. Augustine Historical Society.

Koch, Joan Kelly

1980 "Nuestra Senora de la Soledad: A study of a church and

hospital site in Colonial St. Augustine," M.A. thesis,

Florida State University.

Larsen, Clark Spencer

1987 "Stress and Adaptation at Santa Catalina de Guale:

Analysis of Human Remains," unpublished manuscript on

file with the St. Augustine Foundation.

Lyon, Eugene

1976 The Enterprise of Florida. The University Presses of

Florida, Gainesville.

1977 "St. Augustine 1580: The Living Community," El

Escribano Vol 14. St. Augustine Historical Society.

X editor

19 New Catholic Encyclopedia. San Francisco, California

Thomas, David Hurst

1986 "Saints and Savages at Santa Catalina: An Alternative

Hispanic Design for Colonial America." in The Recovery

of Meaning in Historical Archaeology (M.P. Leone and

P.B. Potter, Jr., eds.) Smithsonian Institute Press,

Washington, D.C.

St. Augustine Record

1924 July 31, 1924 and August 1, 1924

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