SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Frank T. Buschbacher stopped in the middle of the street, pointing to the mystery buried beneath the oil-stained pavement in front of the Alamo.
"It's right down there, 13 feet deep," Mr. Buschbacher said. "It's been keeping its secrets for nearly 160 years, just waiting for someone to find it."
"It" is a long-forgotten well in what once was the large courtyard of the Alamo mission. It may be the final resting place for old cannons and the refuse of battle. If Mr. Buschbacher is right, it contains the long-lost treasure of the legendary San Saba mines. By early next year, the truth will be known.
Last week, the City Council approved spending at least $25,000 to excavate the site in front of the Alamo, a 60-day project. What began as Mr. Buschbacher's seven-year obsession with a historical footnote will become a scientific manhunt.
Archaeologists from the University of Texas at San Antonio, working under permit by the Texas Antiquities Committee, will dig up a 40-foot-square section of the pavement covering Alamo Plaza in January to find out what's at the bottom of the well.
Anne Fox of the Center for Archaeological Research at UTSA will supervise the excavation.
"The well was dug by the defenders shortly before the 1836 battle," Ms. Fox said. "It was refilled immediately after the battle, so we can expect to find the usual detritus of a fight."
Mr. Buschbacher, 45, a transplanted Texan from Southern California, first learned of the possibility of treasure at the Alamo in 1986 while in Colima, Mexico.
Marie Gonzalez, curator of a Colima museum, recounted her recollections of reading in an old diary accounts of how, after the Alamo battle, Mexican soldiers had been forced to carry great amounts of valuables from San Antonio to Santa Anna's home in Jalapa.
According to Ms. Gonzalez's account, much of the "great wealth" remained hidden at the Alamo, Mr. Buschbacher said.
Ms. Fox does not lean heavily toward the tale of buried treasure. "There are legends of buried gold or silver at nearly every old mission in San Antonio," she said. "If it's there, we'll find it. If not, we won't."