A group of female archeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has found a series of archeological and architectural materials, including floors, foundations, sewers, and burials dating back to colonial times and the 19th century at the San Agustín ex-Convent in Mexico City, which later became the old National Library between República de Uruguay and Isabel la Católica streets, downtown.
Archeologists María de la Luz Moreno Cabrera, Sandra Muñoz Vázquez, and María Abigail Becerra explored sections of a wall surrounding the atrium, as well as the temple’s second chapel and the original facade of the Tercer Orden Chapel to determine the original level of said spaces. Along the way they found evidence of some deep modifications made to the San Agustín Temple, of both an aesthetic and structural nature.
The archeologists registered three occupation levels in San Agustín after conducting 21 excavations. All they found from pre-Hispanic times were stone and ceramic artifacts; from colonial times, they found metal, ceramic, stone, shell, and bone materials, as well as architectural elements such as floors, foundations, and burial sites. Moreover, they found drains dating back to the 19th century.
In the 19th century, according to the experts, stumps were built to handle rain water. Some pipes were placed on the walls and the atrium was a garden of sorts, surrounded by quarry columns on which busts of important characters such as Manuel Eduardo Gorostiza, Francisco Javier Clavijero, and Lucas Alamán were placed. Moreover, the building’s western entrance was sealed.
Some of the elements they found were an 18th century masonry wall surrounding the atrium. The original foundations were made out of compacted basalt rock, pink andesite, tezontle, lime, and sand, as well as other pulverized minerals.
Moreover, the archeologists found a hydraulics system that dates back to between the 18th and 19th centuries, which was adapted to the wall structure.
Several burial sites were found under the atrium’s northeast section, affected by the fillers used to counter the building’s subsidence.
Under the Tercer Orden Chapel, 1.44 meters deep, the archeologists found the body of a young woman dating back to the 19th century. She was 1.62 meters tall and wore a luxurious European dress as a shroud. At some point, her grave is likely to have been desecrated, since she was found without her right arm.
Near República de Uruguay street, a multiple burial was also found, containing the bodies of five individuals. Buttons made out of metal, shell, and bone were found near the bodies, along with a bullet from the 18th century, all of which indicates that the bodies could have belonged to members of the military.
The archeologists commented that prominent individuals such as the viceroy Don Marcos Torres y Rueda, deceased in 1649, were also buried at the San Agustín convent. It is also rumored that the remains of Isabel Moctezuma, daughter of the Mexica ruler Moctezuma II, were also buried there, though there is no evidence to support this claim.
María de la Luz Moreno Cabrera, Sandra Muñoz Vázquez, and María Abigail Becerra also found five primary and two secondary burials (which were moved from a different location). These were likely the last burials made at the convent in the 18th or 19th century. Most were in poor conditions and were found near pieces of wood, nails, and bone buttons.