16th Century Artifacts Discovered during Excavations in Santo Domingo

The Colonial Zone’s remodeling process, which includes the repavement of its centuries-old streets, has unearthed important archaeological finds dating back to the 16th century. The country’s Ministry of Tourism launched the reconstruction process of the Zone’s streets, under the responsibility of Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.

The most important findings are:

  • The city’s first aqueduct, considered to be the most important work of urban engineering in the country during the 16th century.
  • Discovery of the city’s partial 16th century sewer system.
  • Part of the original city wall, on “Arzobispo Meriño” Street, and another wall on “Isabel La Catolica” Street, two of the Colonial Zone’s oldest streets.

The repavement of the historic center of Santo Domingo, a project sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Tourism through the Tourism Development Programme of the Colonial Zone, will boost tourist and commercial-related activities in this important section of the city as well as improve the quality of life of its residents.

Architect Maribel Villalona, ​​general coordinator of the Tourism Development Program, recently explained that in the next few years the First City of the Americas will become one of the most beautiful, dynamic and safest in the Caribbean.

She explained that an expert staff is responsible for the meticulous care with which the various archaeological discoveries are being handled. She also said that these findings will add value to the visits of national and international visitors to the Zone. “The discoveries are added assets to a city that is reevaluating its history.”

“All places where important archaeological discoveries have been made will be distinguished with special plaques that will be placed in the nearest wall,” she said.


The project will include depicting these findings through drawings, videos, photographs and scientific research. Once the project is completed there will be an exhibit at the Zone’s “Museo de las Casas Reales.” Some of the pieces unearthed could even be displayed on local streets.

The archaeological aspects and the repavement of Zone streets, as well as its security and well-being of its citizens, are key in promoting tourism in the Colonial Zone. Architect Maribel Villalona, along with other program developers, expect the project will conclude in June 2015.


World-renowned Spanish architect Rafael Moneo is also working on this ambitious project. He is responsible for the recovery of the Ruins of San Francisco, where the first city hospital was built by the Spaniards. When finished, the Ruins will become an events center and an archaeological park.

Moneo is internationally recognized as the top expert when it comes to the intervention of historical sites. He has received various international awards, including the Pritzker Award, the RIBA Gold Medal, the Mies van der Rohe Award and the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts.

Another expert is Carlos Clemente, responsible for putting together the technical studies needed to restore the Ruins.

Other participants: Carlos Leon, Museologist; the Ruiz Ampuero Architectural Firm, in charge of the museography of the Columbus Museum and the “Las Casa Reales” Museum; the Hidria-Reyna de Corazones, in charge of the museography of the Santo Domingo Fort and the Underwater Museum of the “Atarazanas Reales.”


Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic, and is situated along the Caribbean Sea. It was the first European settlement in the Americas, and received its name to honor Domenico Colombo, the father of Christopher Columbus.

Founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, on the eastern bank of the Ozama River, the city was transferred to the west bank of the river on the orders of Nicolas de Ovando.

The Colonial City was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990. The city’s unique collection of 16th century colonial buildings faithfully represents the architecture of the period. The city became the platform whereby the Spanish Crown extended its domain throughout the Americas. Also found in the Zone: the first Cathedral of the Americas; the Alcazar, the official residence of Diego Columbus, Viceroy of the Indies, and son of Christopher Columbus; the San Francisco Monastery, the first monastery in the Americas; the “Casas Reales” Museum, which was once the former Palace of the Governor General; Columbus Square, one of the city’s oldest; the Ozama Fortress, the oldest in the Americas, and the Convent of the Order of the Dominicos, the first convent in the Americas.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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