old mobile

Old Mobile, capital of French Louisiane (1702-1711), has been undergoing excavation since 1989. The sites of eight buildings -- out of more than fifty found -- have been partially or completely excavated, with the recovery of thousands of artifacts. Structure 1, the foundation of which is shown here, may have been occupied by missionary priests.

Center staff at Structure 1.
Excavations always follow the same scientific procedure. After the overlying few inches of soil have been dug, and carefully screened through 1/16-inch mesh, any differences in soil color and texture are carefully mapped and photographed. These stains are our best clues for the appearance of the houses, made mostly of wood and clay, that once stood here. This is Structure 5 under excavation. Note the photo tower in the background.
Documenting the site.
Some of the French buildings, like excavated Structures 1 and 5, had foundation sills that were layed directly on the ground (poteaux-sur-sole style). Others, such as Structure 30 shown here, were built with supporting wall posts placed in a trench (poteaux-en-terre). Surrounding this house was a palisade fence in another trench. Perhaps this small house belonged to a soldier in the garrison of Fort Louis, which stood not too far away.
Excavations at Structure 30 at Old Mobile.
Fort Louis was the military, political, and religious center of the colony. Commandant Bienville's personal quarters and office occupied one building across from the colony's church. Fort bastions were built of notched horizontal logs (pièce-sur-pièce) layed directly on the ground surface. In the damp climate, the bastions and palisade posts rotted quickly and had to be replaced about every five years.
Two maps of the community were drawn by French colonists; both depict personal land claims and plans for future town development. This one (to the right), drawn in 1704-1705, shows the fort and the seminary priest's house in great detail, but we must depend on archaeology for information on buildings elsewhere in town.
Today the site of Old Mobile falls within the boundaries of Axis Alabama, on the property of Accordis, DuPont, and the Alabama Power Company. DuPont has taken the lead in site preservation by donating an archaeological easement to the Archaeological Conservancy, a national nonprofit conservation organization.
1702 Map of Old Mobile.

A decade of scientific excavations at Old Mobile has been made possible by grants and donations from many organizations and contributions from several hundred individuals. All have our gratitude for supporting archaeological investigations at this extremely important historic site.

Among the largest financial contributors are the State of Alabama, the University of South Alabama, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alabama Historical Commission, the National Science Foundation, Courtaulds Fiber, Inc., E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Alabama Power Foundation, the Mitchell Foundation, and the Bedsole Foundation.

We are also grateful to Buddy Parnell, who devoted years to a search for the archaeological remnants of Old Mobile and, after finding remains of the town site early in 1989, selflessly informed the community of his discoveries. Without Mr. Parnell's intense interest and generosity, there would have been no archaeological exploration of the Old Mobile site.

A decade of scientific excavations at Old Mobile has been made possible by grants and donations from many organizations and contributions from several hundred individuals. All have our gratitude for supporting archaeological investigations at this extremely important historic site.


Copyright © 2013 by The University of South Alabama
Last Updated:
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 3:01 PM