St Augustine Archaeologist Carl Halbirt told Raphael Cosme, a Historic City News reporter on the scene of what Halbirt calls a “once in a lifetime” discovery, that the dig going on beneath the mall at 1 King Street has unearthed a number of human bones which Halbirt says could very well be the skeletal remains of European settlers who accompanied the City’s founder, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565.
42-years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia and 55-years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, the City of St Augustine was founded; making it the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in what became the United States.
Could our forefathers be buried beneath the iconic building and parts of Charlotte Street that borders on its west side? Halbirt reported that, in 1572, the settlers created the first parish church, Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios, very near, if not at, the exact spot being excavated and examined today.
Per an article that appeared in the St. Augustine Record, the church was destroyed three times: 1586 during a raid by Sir Francis Drake, 1599 by a fire and hurricane, and in 1702 when the British burned it to the ground. Archeologists are fortunate, Halbirt said, because details of the church building are documented. He surmised that what we are seeing are graves that were intentionally buried beneath the church floor — which would have been consecrated, sacred ground.
Architectural historian Ellsbeth “Buff” Gordon was also at the scene. She told Cosme that although the graves may have been buried in an adjoining cemetery, mission churches across Florida buried everybody in the church floor. Halbirt agrees, saying, “It was standard procedures for Catholics to be buried under the church floor”.
© 2017 Raphael Cosme for Historic City News