Archeologists have successfully unearthed artifacts from a recently discovered site in the ravines of Belgrano, which belonged to the first Franciscan monks who lived in the region.
So far, the site is the oldest of its kind in the 13th commune which includes Belgrano, Colegiales, and Nunez. The site comprises an 18th-century well belonging to the Oratory of La Calera, also known as the Church of San Francisco, and is full of artifacts such as English earthenware, Asian porcelain, European terra-cotta pots, and glass pieces. At the time, they were highly valuable and difficult to replace.
According to the team working under the Archaeological/Paleontological Interpretation Center of Buenos Aires, these daily objects used by the Franciscan monks indicates a high purchasing power similar to that of 18th century upper-class viceroyalty. It is likely that the objects came from rich patrons and were not purchased by the monks themselves.
“According to the information gathered, wealthy families donated dishes and other belongings for daily use,” said the team in a statement they released to La Nación.
As the team excavated further, about two meters below the ground they also discovered necklace beads, glass mirrors, a candle holder, vases perhaps intended for worship, and a belt buckle.
According to zooarchaeologist Mario Silveira, in addition to these artifacts, archaeologists also gathered animal remnants. “It can be said that the Franciscans fed mainly on fish, birds, and mammals like sheep and cows, among other animals,” said Silveira. This indicates that the monks used old wells to discard refuse such as broken objects and food.
The archaeological site was discovered last September as experts worked on surveying the Belgrano ravines. The well overlooks the street of La Pampa, 20 meters from its intersection with Arribenos, where the La Calera chapel once stood.
La Calera was built in 1726, and the monks lived there until 1825. During their stay, they extracted rocks used to obtain lime in the calcium-rich Belgrano ravines, a product of ancient mollusk deposits.
“The shells of mollusks were the product of a marine ingress called belgranense, which occurred in Buenos Aires about 100,000 years ago,” said paleontologist Horacio Padula in a statement to La Nación.
According to team member Ricardo Orsini, the team excavated the well to study the daily life of “different ecclesiastical groups that settled there over the years.” They discovered the site after analyzing different documentations that allowed them to approximate the location of the Franciscan church.
Experts plan to continue excavating the site to research the Argentine order of St. Francis of Assisi, which existed at La Calera around the time of Argentina’s founding.