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  Program 31 Urban Artifacts
      You would think that with all the building and rebuilding in cities across Florida, nothing would be left intact. But over and over we find just the opposite.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is unearthing Florida!

For example, the Sanborn insurance maps of downtown Pensacola show that between 1884 and 1906 there was a big brick Masonic lodge and a wooden building that sold lime for mortar and plaster.  Both buildings have long since been demolished for a parking lot.

However, excavations under the parking lot revealed the foundations and floors of the buildings are still intact, along with tell-tale artifacts from the activities conducted inside. For instance, near the Masonic lodge, we found a swastika lapel pin.  The swastika was a symbol of the masons, and prior to 1922, it meant good luck. Also, we found a lot of lime powder near the lime shop.

While most of the city is paved over, in reality, the pavement is just covering a plethora of artifacts and old building foundations.

  Program 32 Captain Ullate's Well
      Water wells were rare in colonial Pensacola because of the many nearby creeks.  But sometimes they were a necessity, and sometimes archaeologists get lucky and find them.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida.

One of the places where water wells were important was inside Fort San Miguel in today’s downtown Pensacola.  They were vital to insure a source of water during frequent Indian attacks.  Historic maps from the 1760s show the location of the house and store of Captain Luis Ullate, who was head of the Calvary.  Near his residence we found a cluster of water wells.

The wells were made of stacked barrels placed in the center of a large hole that penetrated the water table.  While we found traces of the entire shaft of the barrels, a portion of the very lowest was waterlogged and still intact. Inside the bottom barrel we found many artifacts, including the actual pail used to draw the water.

Captain Ullate’s wells are the first and only ever found from the earliest Spanish occupation of today’s Pensacola.

  Program 33 The Cooler
      Usually when archaeologists find a deep circular pit going into the water table, it’s a water-well, but, not always…

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

In the old colonial section of downtown Pensacola, my UWF team found a circular hole had been dug deep into the water table.  But at the bottom we did not find the expected wooden barrel that contained water.  Instead, we found a rectangular frame of small logs about four by six feet in size. 

No one had ever seen anything like this, but our best guess is that it was a deep “cool storage facility” much like a root cellar.  We think it had a shaft lined with boards, a solid floor, and shelves on which perishable foods were stored.  In fact, at the bottom of the wooden framework, we found a nearly intact wine bottle.

From our historical research, this storage facility was used by Luis Ullate, captain of the Calvary in Spanish Pensacola in the 1750s.  Apparently, he constructed what appears to be the oldest wine “cooler” in all of Spanish Florida.

  Program 34 CO Compound
      During the last decades that West Florida was a colony of Spain, it was Spanish in name only …but there was one exception: the commanding officer’s residence and compound.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida.

During the American Revolution, Spain recaptured West Florida from Great Britain. However, the actual residents were Brits, Caribbean refugees, American settlers, and very few Spaniards or Mexicans.  Most buildings in Pensacola were British built.   The supplies bought and sold in West Florida also were British and American… because they were available and cheap.

Yet, when we excavated in the colonial commanding officer’s compound, we found a plethora of Spanish materials, especially Mexican-made majolica and Chinese porcelains.

The commanding officer’s residence was the political center of West Florida and it was very Spanish. In many ways, it was like an embassy, where it’s important to have the home culture on display.

  Program 35 Pumping the Peat
      Archaeologists often have to dig below the water table. It’s typically not a problem in the sandy soil of downtown Pensacola. But, during a 2004 excavation, it got complicated.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Usually, we are able to dig a series of point wells outside our exaction units, lower the water table, and get to work.  So, we turned the pump on. But, the deeper we dug, the wetter it got.  That’s’ because this particular area was an old swamp, and the water table is kept artificially high by a layer of peat—six feet below the surface.

As a last resort, we carefully put the well points, not only inside of our excavation units, but right in the middle of the cultural features, such as wells and storage pits, that we were preparing to study.

Despite our difficulties, we were rewarded with wonderfully preserved finds in the soft, muddy bottom, such as fine wine glasses, and organic materials including the bottom barrel of the well, leather artifacts and food remains.

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