Archaeology Field Report on the Search for Fort Guijarros
Ronald V. May
Between 1981 and 1995, the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation conducted
archaeological investigations to define the physical appearance of Fort
Guijarros, the 1796 Spanish cannon battery on Ballast Point, San Diego,
California (May 1995:4-15; May 1996:1-18). Historical research on the
location of Fort Guijarros began in 1980 (Colston 1982:61-83) and continued
through 1989 (Cutter 1989:6). Archival records from the United States,
Spain, and Mexico revealed 18th-century Spanish authorities had selected
Punta de los Guijarros as the site for a defensive cannon battery.
Figure 8.1 The earliest known American topographic survey of Ballast Point
showing the location of the ruined fort, 1867. Arrow points to mound of
Fort Guijarros’ ruins, with notation “Ruins of Spanish Battery.”
Map of Ballast Point, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The entrance to San Diego Bay is constricted by a narrow spit, marked
on Spanish maps as “Punta de los Guijarros” and United States
maps as “Ballast Point” (Figure 8.2).
Figure 8.1 The earliest known American topographic survey of Ballast Point showing the location of the ruined fort, 1867. Arrow points to mound of Fort Guijarros’ ruins, with notation “Ruins of Spanish Battery.” Map of Ballast Point, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The entrance to San Diego Bay is constricted by a narrow spit, marked
on Spanish maps as “Punta de los Guijarros” and United States
maps as “Ballast Point” (Figure 8.2).
Figure 8.2 Ballast Point, Point Loma. Aerial view taken between 1922-1935, showing U.S. Army Fort Rosecrans. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Collection, P:04-7091.
West of Ballast Point is a 350-foot-high uplifted marine sandstone hill known today as Point Loma. East of the harbor entrance was a nearly level marshland identified on modern maps as North Island (Figure 8.3).
Figure 8.3 Aerial photograph of Point Loma looking
north towards San Diego. North Island is located in the upper right of
the picture across the harbor. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Collection,
Ships sailed past Ballast Point one mile north to the Embarcadero to anchor
and conduct business. Spanish law required foreign ship masters to register
with the commandante of the Royal Presidio de San Diego, some four miles
north of the Embarcadero. Those traveling to the Presidio passed overland
through the marsh and the San Diego River to a hill site overlooking San
Diego Bay to the south and the San Diego River and Mission Valley to the
Figure 8.4 1839 map by English Captain John Hall showing San Diego and the location of the Fort and Presidio de Puerto de San Diego as well as navigation information such as channel depth. In Richard F. Pourade’s The History of San Diego: The Silver Dons.
Miguel Costansó selected Ballast Point that same year for the
San Diego battery (Colston 1982:62). Following the change of command from
Arrillaga to Governor Diego Borica in 1793, Spanish authorities shipped
1410 wood planks, 50 beams for the esplanade, 6 beams for the barracks,
100 boards and 300 stones to San Diego.
Figure 8.5 Spanish cannon battery in San Francisco,
California at the mouth of the harbor.
Although neither records nor drawings are known to exist for San Diego’s
battery, plans do exist for one in San Francisco (Figure
8.5). Two years prior to construction of Fort Guijarros, Cordoba
documented the San Francisco battery with fourteen cannon ports between
20-foot-thick merlones in an as-built map (Colston 1982:66). This design
showed the San Francisco battery to have 40-foot-wide walls topped on
the exterior half by the merlones. The gunports measured 2.5 feet wide
at the interior face and flared to 10 feet at the exterior. The interior
face of the merlones measured 8 feet high and sloped toward the exterior
to 4 feet. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1815, Cordoba’s battery
was replaced by a horseshoe-shaped battery in 1816 (Bancroft 1886:651).
The plans of Bateria de San Lucas closely resemble a mark on the 1851
United States Coast Survey map of Ballast Point (May 1995:9). Llobet followed
instructions detailed in 1772 by de Lucuze, but expanded the esplanade
to roughly 40 feet. Elevated 28 feet above the natural ground, Batería
de San Lucas protected an interior barracks (Figure
Figure 8.6 Fort analogy from Joaquin Antonio Calderon Quijano showing cannon battery in Campeche, Mexico. Fort Guijarros may have had a similar appearance in 1800.
The building material available for most Spanish fortification construction
in New Spain consisted of quarried hard stone, such as granite or chalkstone.
Both the interior and exterior faces of Batería de San Lucas are
vertical in the 1792 plans. De Lucuze illustrated a hard stone vertical
exterior or battery face, but both vertical and ramped interior faces
were made (Quillin and Quillin 1988:3-7; May 1995:6). Quarry stone is
not available on the San Diego coast of California and Spanish architects
were forced to use soft marine sandstone, mud and cobblestones on Ballast
Point. The lowest layer of architecture includes crudely-shaped blocks
of marine sandstone.
Figure 8.7 An 1843 sketch by Swedish tourist G. M.
Waseurtz af Sandels of La Playa with Fort Guijarros depicted to the far
right. G. M. Waseurtz af Sandels, 1945 A Soujourn in California by the
King’s Orphan: the Travels and Sketches of G. M. Waseurtz af Sandels,
a Swedish Gentleman Who Visited California in 1842-1843. San Francisco:
Figure 8.8 1852 U.S. Coast Survey Map view of entrance to San Diego Bay, as part of general sailing instructions from San Diego to San Francisco, with Point Loma rising to the left. Reconnaissance under the command of Lt. James Alden, U.S.N. Assistant.
The $20-an-acre investment would have paid $100,000, had the federal
court not invalidated the City of San Diego’s title
Figure 8.9 1857 Map of San Diego showing location of Fort Guijarros. Set 10, No. 35 by Linden Lohe.
The retired soldiers then leased Ballast Point to civilian shore whaling
companies sometime between 1858 and 1860 (May 1985a; 1986). Taking advantage
of the relatively level surface of the 20-foot-high and 40-foot-thick
north wing of Fort Guijarros, Packard Whaling Company owners erected a
small shanty house and a larger blacksmith shop
(Figure 8.10). Later joined by the Johnson Company, the Packard
Company erected shanties, warehouses, and at least one tryworks oven along
the spit at Ballast Point to conduct whale oil rendering operations. Tiles
removed from the Fort Guijarros ruins were stacked into the foundation
of the tryworks oven further east on Ballast Point. Large sandstone blocks
used to build the blacksmith shop forge may have been salvaged from the
interior of Fort Guijarros (May 1994;1996:10-13).
Figure 8.10 Top: Jay Wegter’s watercolor interpretation of the pre-1896 whaler’s shanty and blacksmith’s shop. Bottom: 1896 Army Corps of Engineer’s Map excerpt showing the mound of the ruins of Fort Guijarros with the whaler’s shanty and blacksmith’s shop buildings located on top of the mound.
Following the 1870 federal court decision in favor of the U.S. Department
of War, civilian title extinguished and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
assigned Lt. John Hall Weeden to inspect Point Loma in 1872 and evict
the “squatters.” Bowing to popular local support for continuation
of the whaling operation, Lt. Weeden allowed the whalers to continue until
1873 and a number of elaborate battery designs were completed for a new
“Fort San Diego” (May 1985b:121-136).
Figure 8.11 Two maps for Fort San Diego, the proposed
elaborate Barbette Battery at Ballast Point, in (left) 1872 and (right)
1873. Both of these proposals were designed around the ruins of Fort Guijarros,
taking advantage of the same cannon firing lines used by the Spanish engineers
when they designed Fort Guijarros to protect the entrance to San Diego
The merlones were not present in the archaeological excavations, except
as rubble fill down the Spanish cobblestone buttress, suggesting demolition
and removal to an unknown location. Congress terminated funding for Lt.
Weeden’s Fort San Diego in 1874 and the elaborate designs were never
completed, leaving behind only the documentary record and earthen mound
as a reminder of that episode of San Diego’s coastal defense. Soon
afterwards, the U.S. military presence temporarily departed Ballast Point.
Figure 8.12 Circa 1943 aerial view looking west towards United States Army Fort Rosecrans showing Coast Artillery Battery Wilkeson, which was built in 1898. Fort Guijarros is located beneath the sand in the foreground (see arrow). Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:04-7086.
The United States Navy Submarine Base invited civilian historians to conduct archaeological investigations in search of Fort Guijarros in 1980 (May 1982). The Navy issued an American Antiquities Act Permit to Ronald V. May in 1981 and investigations commenced to search for remains of the walls of Fort Guijarros. By 1982, the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation incorporated with non-profit status and applied for subsequent archaeological permits.
The primary objective for all the investigations has been to obtain evidence for the physical appearance of Fort Guijarros. Secondary research designed methods to analyze quantities of food bone and other kitchen debris to characterize the quality of life Spanish soldiers experienced during the occupation of 1796-1822 and Mexican military occupation of 1822-1835. Work on Fort Guijarros’ walls occurred in 1981-1982, 1985, 1987, and 1989-1995. The search for residential areas occurred in 1983, 1984, and 1986. Other investigations, involved shore whaling sites elsewhere on Ballast Point, occurred in 1988-1989 and 1991-1992.
In theory, the boundaries of Fort Guijarros should include the walls and
associated living areas within the site. This would include the soldiers’
barracks, powder house and storerooms, kitchen, corrals, and refuse areas.
A hypothetical boundary has been marked to record the archaeological site,
CA-SDI-12,000, with the California Site Survey.
The overall strategy involved the placement of large excavation blocks
between existing buildings, parking lots, paved roads, and at the edge
of the 1898 fill slope of Battery Wilkeson. In total, eight blocks of
varying dimensions were excavated between 1981 and 1995.
Figure 8.13 Overlay of excavation fields (red) upon composite map of proposed site boundary as theorized by Architect Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA. The excavation targeted the fort walls as well as areas in front of and behind the defense walls.
Test units in 1981 revealed a deeply stratified earth fill. The 1945 fill
ranged from 1.64 to 4.92 feet thick. Several strata appeared to have been
loads of yellow, orange, and tan sands dumped in a pile. A dark black
to brown burned strata rich in U.S. Army artifacts dating from 1890 to
1924 extended throughout the area. Thick beach sand layers separated the
U.S. Army strata from a dense dark brown indurated sand filled with civilian
artifacts that dated from 1850 to 1886. This included whalebones from
the shore whaling operation.
3. Logistics. Long-term scientific investigation through complex U.S.
Army, American shore whaling, and Spanish/Mexican rubble strata required
commitment of substantial funds, acquisition of equipment, and sources
of funding for the labor and materials to clean, catalog, analyze, conserve,
and package the artifacts into environmentally stable containers (Figure
Figure 8.14 Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation laboratory in Building 127, Fort Rosecrans Historic District, Naval Base Point Loma. Featured in the photo are Dale Ballou May at the computer, Ron May near the door, Susan Floyd to his left, Heather Haisten to his right, and G. Scott Anderson at the bottom of the photo.
The Board of Directors of the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation committed
to addressing and solving all of the above problems.
Figure 8.16 Top: C. Fred Buchanan cutting the dedication ribbon for Captain David Stanley, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, on July 15, 1995. Lower left: CDR. John C. Hinkle, U.S.N. (ret), former Commanding Officer and foundation co-founder placed the first box in the Ballast Point Repository. Lower right: Captain David Stanley and Ron May, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation, stand at the entrance of the Ballast Point Repository. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection: P:95-1985; P:95-1988; P:95-1995.
The long-term excavation strategy involved backhoe trenching for architectural
and residential features, followed by field block excavation, and individual
unit excavation within the blocks (Figure 8.17). Since no one knew beforehand if soil color and composition change indicated
architecture, dissolved architecture, fill, ocean erosion, graded cutting,
or just a pile of trash, the field strategy required assigning a “locus”
number for the location of the color and soil composition change. Segregation
of the land by field block, unit, and loci enabled later laboratory analysis
to properly interpret if the colors represented walls, foundations, trenches,
privies, or piles of trash. In this context, the arbitrary term locus
does not conform to other archaeologist’s field terminology.
Figure 8.17 First day of excavation, June 6, 1981. The backhoe trench revealed architectural ruins below the parking lot. Commander John C. Hinkle, Lt. Schnelzer, and Sharon Preston are observing the field crew. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection.
The first field crew included a mix of professional archaeologists and
avocationals who volunteered their time, equipment, and resources to make
this a successful project. A review of the field notes and photo records
revealed partial list of many of the people who participated in the project
that first summer (in random order):
Stanley R. Berryman, Judy Berryman and their son R.J., Jerry Schaefer,
Steve Apple, Rebecca Apple, Jim Royle, Marje Royle, Rick Norwood, Brian
Glenn, Kaja Mitter (Lausten), Susan Walter, Jesús Benayas, Andrew
Pignolio, Steve Van Wormer, Paul Chace, Alan Chace, Richard Gadler, Don
Laylander, Butch Hancock, Ginger Hancock, Judy Swink, Wayne Kenaston,
Dan Brown, Linda Roth, Roxie Phillips, Carolyn May, Joyce Reading, Juan
Bertran, Sally Hyslop, Anna Noah, Florence Sloane, Russell Stewart, Mary
Lou Hewitt, Maria Olson, Quentin Olson, Ron Morgan, Marilyn Morgan, Howard
Schwitkis, Elfie Schwitkis, Julie Iavelli, Gil Boggs, Toy Boggs, Robert
C. Forsythe, Susan Floyd, Mary Tommey, Jerry Hall, Lesley Ragan-Davis,
Joe Young, Everett Papp, Mark Stein, C. Smith, C. Hartley, J. Kordat,
Joe Young, Tod Michael, Pat McCarty, Jerry Hall, A. Pierce, Karen Trexler,
and Cyndi Duff.
The following is a description of the eight blocks excavated between 1981 and 1995.
The U.S. Navy cut a backhoe trench from Rosecrans Street to the west end
of Building 539 on June 6, 1981 (See Figure 8.17).
The backhoe piled soil in a row south of the trench for the volunteers to
screen (Figure 8.18). Commander John C. Hinkle,
Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy Submarine Support Facility, and his staff
coordinated logistics with archaeologist Ronald V. May as field director.
As the backhoe bucket penetrated a waterline late that morning, Commander
Hinkle had the water shut off. When the water subsided, layers of sand,
charcoal, and broken fired adobe tiles were exposed in the trench sidewall.
The team examined the sidewalls and placed test pits over the wet tiles
and cobbles to determine if this material represented Spanish architecture.
Confirmation of the ruins of Fort Guijarros caused a change in field methodology.
The crew devised a rectangular block grid with the west end directly over
the wet tiles and cobbles and the east end 19.69 feet away
(Figure 8.19). Screening of samples of the top 3.28 feet of yellow-tan
earth fill recovered low quantities of artifacts. The few artifacts recovered
included scuffed bottle glass, rusted sheet metal, and automobile parts.
Based on the very low potential for significant artifact features in this
fill deposit, the field director instructed the U.S. Navy backhoe operator
to remove the top 3.28 feet.
Figure 8.19 This exposure of the architectural ruin
shows the fort wall tiles collapsed down the cobblestone ramp that buttressed
the outside wall of the fort. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection,
Field I measured 29.53 feet by 19.69 feet, and was gridded for six test
units 6.56 feet square, divided by 3.28-foot-wide balks. The balks provided
side wall profiles for each of the six units. The field strategy employed
one dig team with two people for each grid unit. A battery of ten screens
was arranged along the backhoe trench to screen the soil. Over 300 people
made up the crew that year. All man-made items recovered in the screens
were placed in bags marked by Field I, trench/gird unit, and level. These
field bags were then transported to the field lab for cleaning, sorting,
and cataloguing. Figure 8.20 Cross-section of the southeast wall of Fort Guijarros showing
the strata of the wall. Drawing courtesy of Stanley and Judy Berryman.
Figure 8.20 Cross-section of the southeast wall of Fort Guijarros showing the strata of the wall. Drawing courtesy of Stanley and Judy Berryman.
Correlations of these loci to strata were made at the end of the field season in the Winter of 1981. For example, in this system, Unit 1, Locus 2 became Strata 8, as did Unit 5. The stratigraphic sequence followed the stages that architectural elements were installed on the beach at Ballast Point in 1795-1796. Under the supervision of Engineer Alberto de Cordobá, the laborers installed each element in layers of cobble, sand, tile, mortar, and whitewash to achieve the finished product. The stratigraphic sequence is essential to understand the physical appearance and structural integrity of Fort Guijarros. Figure 8.20 illustrates the sidewall cross-section of Field I, southeast wall. This report will only address the architectural sequences related to Fort Guijarros. Description of earth fill strata laid down by U.S. civilian whaling companies and U.S. Army can be found in other reports (May 1985a, 1985b, 1996; Donaldson and May 1996:60-70).
Contrafuera or Revestimento
Strata I through VI, designed by Engineer Alberto de Cordobá to
buttress the massive heavy masonry superstructure and cannon decks, are
important to the archaeological sequence. This architecture comprised
the following six elements:
1. Strata I. The first step in erecting Fort Guijarros involved marking
the outline in the beach sand and excavating a keyway trench for the foundations.
The Spanish work crew dug the keyways into the beach sand of Ballast Point.
No artifacts were present in the beach sand under Fort Guijarros to indicate
prior occupation by Spanish or Native American people prior to 1796. The
functional purpose of Strata I is found in de Lucuze’s 1772 treatise
on fortification (Quillin and Quillin 1988:3-7). The core wall stabilized
the massive interior earth/rock fill that supported the cannon deck and
merlón. A sloped battery face buttressed the core wall. This entire
association of the interior fill, core wall, and battery face is the contrafuera.
The term literally means against-away or against the outside. The angle
of the vertical length of Strata I records the battery face.
Lt. Weeden’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction of Fort
San Diego is believed to be responsible for this removal. Elevations recorded
on the U.S. Army 1873 Field of Fire maps provide a clue as to why Lt.
Weeden would have directed demolition; Fort Guijarros would have impeded
a clear field of fire from the 1873 U.S. Army artillery batteries.
Figure 8.22 Artist’s conception by Joyce Reading in 1981. Although new findings have revealed that the cobblestone core is in a different location and the wall is much larger, the glacis or buttress ramp outside is made clear by this sketch. San Diego Union, August 25, 1981.
Figure 8.23 View west of wall (Strata V). The first layer of revestimento (glacis) cobbles were removed from Strata III. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:81-7272.
Internal wall components: Strata II, III, IV, V
The 1981 archaeological investigation cut a cross-section through the
figure 8.20). Thousands of 3.96- to 15.84-inch rounded cobbles
were heaped against the first six tiers of Strata I. Two distinct layers
of these cobbles have been labeled Strata II and III. Above Strata III
cobbles was a layer of tan sand (Strata IV) and another mass of small
cobblestones (Strata V). The battery face of Fort Guijarros formed a glacis
of cobblestones from the top of Tier 12 of Strata I sloped down to the
beach, which Spanish engineers called the revestimiento.
Strata VI was a yellow-tan sand identical to the yellow-tan fill sand
on the interior side of Strata I. This fill appears to have leaked through
or across Strata I and poured down to cover Strata V cobbles. No artifacts
were recovered in Strata VI, indicating the sand was deposited on Strata
V during an episode when no one occupied the area. This deposition may
have occurred after Mexican demilitarization in 1835, when the authorities
no longer maintained the battery.
A massive deposit of slightly yellowed sand completely covered Strata
VI and spread east beyond the Field I excavation. A single white plate
sherd with a Pearl Ware glaze recovered from screening Strata VII provided
the only evidence to date deposition. The general lack of artifacts in
Strata VII indicates the deposition did not coincide with occupation of
the site, but occurred after the 1840s. The length of Strata VII, a full
19.69 feet east of Strata I, indicates a powerful single episode of dry
transport of material. This depositional process would be similar to a
A random mound of large cobbles mixed with dissolved and re-compacted reddish-tan
adobe block, shattered fragments of whitewashed cement mortar, and fragments
of fired adobe tile formed the upper portion of Strata VIII as it lay directly
on top of Stratum V, VI, and VII (See
figure 8.20). The cobbles correlate directly with cobbles in
Strata I, but no black shell midden mortar was recovered in Strata VIII.
The 1982 field season designed an excavation strategy to obtain improved
Fort Guijarros architectural information. Tangent to the West End of Field
I, Field II measured 9.84 feet by 9.84 feet. An asphalt road installed by
the U.S. Navy in December 1981 had restricted the north boundary of the
sample area. A concrete deposit installed as a base for the 1975 boulder
rip-rap sea wall constricted investigation and limited archaeological access
to the south.
Field III: Test for activities outside the wall
Simultaneous with the Field II investigation, the 1982 field season designed an excavation strategy to search for Spanish architecture or occupation features on the beach east of the Fort Guijarros glacis (Figures 8.25 and 8.26). Anticipated activities would have been occupation and refuse deposits, metal and carpentry workshop activities, livestock agriculture, and boatyard activities associated with the Spanish flatboat that transported the fired tile, lumber, and cement from the Presidio.
Figure 8.25 A Birdseye View of Fort Guijarros. Jay Wegter. 1990. This hypothetical view of Fort Guijarros shows the target area of Field III. The goal was to test for behavioral activities on or around the glacis and beach beyond the Fort. Instead, an American whaling camp from a much later time period was encountered.
Figure 8.26 Soldiers at Fort Guijarros by Jay Wegter. 1990. This hypothetical interpretation shows how the outside of the Fort may have appeared. Note the sloping walls of the exterior of the Fort.
Field III measured 16.4 feet (north-south) by 29.53 feet (west-east) (Figure 8.27). The vast majority of Field III consisted of extensions of Stratum X (civilian shore whaling) and Strata XI and XII (U.S. Army) earth fill (May 1985:1-24; 1986:73-90; 1996:41-58). At the bottom, Stratum VIII rubble from Fort Guijarros scattered widely over sterile beach sand. Sample test pits in the beach sand encountered seawater but no artifacts.
Figure 8.27 General unit configuration for Field I and Field III, excerpted from C. Fred Buchanan’s Key Map–Field I & III. The reason the two grids are not in alignment is that nearby Navy equipment interfered with magnetic readings during the first ten years of the investigations.
Field III exhibited intensive wave scouring at Stratum VIII. As much as
2.62 feet of sterile beach sand separated individual tiles. All the tiles
were eroded by wave action, but fragments of whitewashed cement mortar
were also present in the sand. All the fired adobe tiles were recovered
for analysis, but most were returned to Field I in 1987 following analysis.
The 1983 field season tested hypotheses regarding the boundaries of archaeological deposits associated with Spanish and Mexican soldier occupation inside the wall of Fort Guijarros. Analysis of elevation contour lines on the 1867 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map of Ballast Point (See figure 8.1) revealed a man-made graded cut in the Point Loma hillside, a large level pad behind the portion of Fort Guijarros exposed in 1981, and a south berm along Ballast Point that linked with the fort. The Field IV test was placed north of the 1981 asphalt road and on the south face of the 1873 Fort San Diego and 1898 U.S. Army Battery Wilkeson (Figure 8.28). The purpose was to learn how the Spanish used the area behind the wall.
Figure 8.28 Civil Engineer Marty Byrne prepared this
design for deep test pits at the request of the Navy Civil Engineer. Once
approved, the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation had to design sufficient
shoring to meet the requirements of the Navy Safety Officer. The actual
location of Field VI was approximately fifty feet north of Byrne’s
proposal in order to avoid interfering with Navy operations. The Field
V pit was more to the left once the Navy demolished Building 251 (“The
The Base Civil Engineer required an engineering drawing prepared to design safe excavation into the earth fill of Battery Wilkeson (Figure 8.28). Civil Engineer Marty Byrne of Graves Engineering prepared the drawing. A mechanical bobcat skip loader cut and shaped the excavation site. Heavy timber shoring locked the 20-foot-high cut in place and shored the excavation below 4 feet, in accordance with safety laws (Figure 8.29).
Figure 8.29 This view shows the heavy shoring necessary
to create a safe working environment deep below the 20th-century fill
that covers the mid-19th-century to late 18th-century trash deposits behind
the walls of Fort Guijarros in Field IV. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation
Photo Collection, P:84-636
A hand-crane erected on the wood shoring hauled metal
buckets of soil from the excavation (Figure 8.30).
All soil was screened through 1/4-inch mesh, but very few artifacts were
recovered in the first 6.56 feet. A single amber glass medicine bottle
dated the first 4.92 feet to after 1898.
8.30 Top: View of Andrea McKee at the wooden crane used to lower and raise
buckets in Fields IV, V, VI, and VII. Bottom: Composite using 1943 aerial
photograph of United States Army Fort Rosecrans Coast Artillery Battery
Wilkeson with Donaldson’s Fort Guijarros postulated location as
an overlay to show location of Field IV, V, and VII excavation areas indicated
by red circle. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:86-7181
A large cast concrete drain from Lt. Weeden’s 1873-1874 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction of Fort San Diego appeared at 6.56 feet below the existing parking surface. The drain feature was left in situ for future scientific investigation. The base of the drain dated the surface of the ground to 1874. Directly below the base of the 1873-1874 drain, a bed of alluvial gravel covered the entire surface. This 7.92-inch-thick deposit (Locus 7) is believed to have been installed by Lt. Weeden to form a base for the drain installation. A single glass wall sherd of a 1860s schnapps bottle supports this interpretation.
Buried anaerobic pond clay deposit with Spanish trash.
Under the Locus 7 gravel deposit, a thin layer of wet, fine, greasy micaceous gray clay with black patches of decomposed woody vegetation and dark seeds formed Locus 8. The clay is similar to estuarine marsh ponds. A few marine shells and one fragment of a water-worn Spanish roof tile were embedded in the clay (Figure 8.31). Directly under the clay deposit, a wet gray sand of medium to coarse grains mixed with marine shell, Spanish tile, mortar fragments, and rock fragments formed Locus 9. The sand in Locus 9 was coarser than the surrounding beach sand. Hydraulic sorting of the Locus 9 sand indicates San Diego River deposition.
Figure 8.31 Spanish roof tile fragment. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:84-636.
Fort Guijarros trash feature
At a depth of 9.84 feet, a pit excavated through Locus 9 filled with a
4-to-9.84-inch-thick micaceous gray greasy clay deposit formed Locus 10.
Excavation released hundreds of fine dark vegetal seeds as the water table
rushed into the excavation. Sump-pumping lowered the water table in a
sterile hole southwest of Locus 10.
Figure 8.32 Top: This broken piece of an Aranama Polychrome
Tradition soup plate is classic early 19th-century Mexican Majolica. The
black accent surrounding the orange band and the green interior dots characterize
this type as dating from 1800-1835. Bottom: This Chinese Canton Trade
Ware serving platter fragment is a style that dates from a Manilla Galleon
supply ship in the late 18th century. Both sherds were recovered in an
anerobic pond clay deposit with other Spanish artifacts such as cut leather
strips, food bone, and Spanish tile. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation
Photo Collection, P:96-3581 and P:95-1770.
Following the discovery of a Spanish/Mexican trash feature behind the walls of Fort Guijarros, the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation and U.S. Navy collaborated in a long-term effort to define the extent of Spanish and Mexican behavioral activities surrounding the fort. The 1983 investigation of Field IV demonstrated the earth fill in front of 1898 U.S. Army Battery Wilkeson covered significant archaeological features associated with Fort Guijarros. The Monterey Polychrome and Canton Blue-on-white ceramic artifacts date the trash feature to the Fort Guijarros occupation between 1796 and 1835.
Field V: Test behind Building 539 Fire Station
A second investigation in 1983 tested an area 25 feet north of the northeast
corner of Building 539 in search of the northern extension of Fort Guijarros
architecture. This excavation was situated in direct line with the contrafuera
detected at Field I. Excavation at Field V provided no evidence the portion
of Fort Guijarros exposed in Field I is the north wing. At about 5.91
feet in depth, a dark brown to black soil with small rounded pebbles appeared.
Field VI: Test north of Field V
The 1986 investigation of Field VI searched for Spanish or Mexican residential activity areas associated with Fort Guijarros along the bay shore. This 13.12-foot-square field block was located west of the asphalt parking lot, between two existing eucalyptus trees and on the east flank of the 1898 U.S. Army Battery Wilkeson (Figure 8.33). As in the design and execution of Field IV, heavy wood shoring protected the excavation crew from a cave-in. A wooden crane served to haul out buckets of earth.
Figure 8.33 Field VIII dig crew. Unidentified person
on the upper left; Jim Royle on the right. C. Fred Buchanan sits in the
foreground. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:93-1068.
From surface to 6.89 feet, Locus 1 proved to be medium to dark brown
loam mixed with automobile parts, U.S. Army glazed sewer tile, concrete,
rusted metal, machine-made bottle glass, a tree stump, and a white-painted
rock. The saw cut tree stump and rock were labeled Feature 1, and interpreted
as a Fort Rosecrans landscape feature. The artifacts date Locus 1 to post-1902
U.S. Army Fort Rosecrans occupation. Several hard hammer flakes, bones
and marine shell recovered in this deposit are secondary deposition and
not associated with the U.S. Army primary occupation.
The 1983 field season placed a block of excavation units 11.48 feet (west-east)
by 6.56 feet (north-south) 6.56 feet west of Field IV to make a second
attempt at locating the Spanish barracks or kitchen behind Fort Guijarros.
A wooden hand crane was used to haul out soil.
At 7.22 feet, a light brown sand interbedded with mottled yellow and brown
soil formed Locus 3. Mature Ostrea lurida and Astrea undosa marine shell,
Spanish roof tile, and traces of decomposed wood were spread within Locus
3. From 7.22 to 8.2 feet, Locus 4 consisted of white sand mixed with angular
and rounded rocks, rusted metal, Argopecten aequisulcatus, Ostrea lurida,
and Chione undatella marine shell, Spanish tile fragments, splintered
animal bone, and large cobbles. Locus 4 dipped in the northeast corner
to 7.55 feet. From 7.38 and 7.55 to 8.2 feet, a thin layer of dark gray
sand that blended to a mottled dark clay formed Locus 5. The clay and
earth layer contained pieces of charcoal, organic plant matting, Spanish
tile, splintered food bone, and marine shell. Locus 3 penetrated Locus
5 to 7.38 feet. At 8.3 feet, a thin light tan sand lens formed Locus 6.
Hints at metal artifacts appeared as iron rust stains.
The investigation at Field VII substantiated the presence of the Fort Guijarros military kitchen west of the artillery battery. Future investigation of larger portions of this area should reveal the barracks, kitchen, and perhaps the storehouses. The primary challenge to those investigations will be the U.S. Army fill at a depth of 8.2 to 9.84 feet which will need to be penetrated and shored prior to archaeology work.
The 1989 field season was designed to obtain a second sample of the contrafuera
of Fort Guijarros and to obtain measurements that would resolve architectural
questions regarding the composition of the merlones. This field block
measured 91.86 by 16.4 feet in size. The excavation was planned for several
years of work in order to maximize field measurement and provide ample
time to carefully excavate the U.S. Army and shore whaling company fill
layers that cover the Spanish ruins.
Once the tile rubble had been mapped, the pieces were lifted, carefully
examined, and stacked to one side (Figure 8.35).
The cleaned cobblestone glacis received a second set of measurements.
From the top of the contrafuera, a string had been pulled level at 10.8
feet above Mean Low Low Water. Plumb lines were then measured. At 5.41
feet along the line, the cobblestone glacis measured 10.24 feet above
Mean Low Low Water. At 10.17 feet along the line, the cobblestone glacis
measured 8.89 feet above Mean Low Low Water.
Figure 8.36 View from the roof of Building 539, Navy Fire Station, looking southwest across Field VIII towards the tip of Point Loma. The field of excavation reveals a massive cobble layer set down by Spanish builders to support the Fort Guijarros wall superstructure. The grid square in the photograph was used for mapping. Photo by Mike Nabholz. Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation Photo Collection, P:89-280.
The 1981 to 1995 investigations by the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation
uncovered new information regarding the surviving remains of the 18th-century
Spanish fort on Ballast Point. Although an enormous effort has gone into
digging, architectural analysis, and reporting, a great deal more can
be learned by further investigations.
Bancroft, Hubert Howe
Buchanan, C. Frederick
Chapman, Charles E.
Colston, Stephen A.
Cook, Warren L.
Corps of Engineers Map of the Site of Proposed Battery, Ballast Point,
Surveyed under the direction of Major Charles E. L. B. Davis, Corps of
Cutter, Donald C.
Donaldson, Milford Wayne and Ronald V. May
May, Ronald V.
Quillin, Col. Frank (ret.) and Margaret Quillin
Sandels, G.M. Waseurtz af