Lost and Found

Have you ever lost something big? How about an entire wall? Or a fort? Well, St. Augustine has. Over a century ago, much of our city’s walls and defenses disappeared to history. But with the help of archaeologists, we now know where the former fortifications stood – under our streets. Today, we will drive over to Cordova Street to examine the 1988 archaeological excavation that found the Rosario Line.

A black and white photograph of people posing in front of a cracked wall.
The St. Augustine Alligator Hunt Club stands in front of the Rosario Redoubt in 1870. (UFDC)

A defensive system featuring forts – known as redoubts – along walls and earthworks enclosed St. Augustine in the 1700s. Spain wanted to protect their presidio – fortified base – in Florida from land invasions. Already defended by Castillo de San Marcos and the Cubo Line, the Rosario Line safeguarded the city from the south and west. The fortification included seven redoubts and an earthen barrier – with sharp yucca and cacti plants. The line remained standing until city officials voted for its removal in 1871.

A color photograph of an excavation trench with an archaeologist using a spade to place dirt into a bucket.
Assistant city archaeologist Christine L. Newman excavating the Rosario Redoubt in 1988.

The Rosario Line re-emerged in 1988 with an archaeological excavation on Cordova Street. City archaeologist Bruce Piatek and assistant city archaeologist Christine L. Newman led the project. They invited volunteers to join the dig and onlookers to catch archaeology in action. The archaeological team excavated two 3 by 2 meter sections of busy sidewalk between Cathedral Place and King Street.

“Our claim to fame is we’re a drive-up archaeological site,” city archaeologist Bruce Piatek said.

“Ancient ‘dump’ yields trove of information” by Denise O’Toole in Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, May 15, 1988

They believed that their site stood close to the westernmost point of the Rosario Redoubt. Remnants of late 18th and early 19th century life found the dig indicated that residents once used the space outside of the wall as a dump. The high water content of the soil allowed the preservation of leather shoe soles, squash seeds, peach pits, bones, and other colonial trash.

A color photograph of a woman using a hose to sift through dirt during an excavation on a sidewalk near Flagler College.
Sifting artifacts along Cordova Street during the 1988 excavation of the Rosario Redoubt.

From their dig’s results, the 1988 archaeological team concluded that the Rosario Line stood where Cordova Street runs today. Next time you visit, stroll along the once-lost and now-found colonial defense.

3 thoughts on “Lost and Found

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