Archaeologists who have spent the last few months excavating a planned development site in the middle of downtown Miami have discovered an ancient and extensive Native American village, which researchers believe may be one of the most significant prehistoric sites in the United States.
April Holloway | Ancient Origins
The finding includes eight large circles comprised of uniformly carved holes in the native limestone, which are believed to be foundation holes for Tequesta Indian dwellings dating as far back as 2,000 years, as well as hundreds of postholes that mark the foundation for other structures, possibly boardwalks connecting the dwellings. The site has also yielded thousands of Tequesta artefacts, including bone and shell tools.
“What’s unusual and unique about the site is that it’s this huge chunk of land where a major part of this ancient Tequesta village site is preserved,’’ said veteran South Florida archaeologist Bob Carr. “It’s one of the earliest urban plans in eastern North America. You can actually see this extraordinary configuration of these buildings and structures.’’
Unfortunately, the Tequesta village site covers roughly half of a long-vacant, two-acre city block on the north side of the river where the developer, MDM Development Group, plans to build movie theatres, restaurants and a 34-story hotel. The city of Miami granted MDM zoning and development approvals for the Met Square project, though not a final building permit, before the full scope of the archaeological finds was known or understood.
MDM says it could lose a substantial amount of money if their plans are curtailed and they are not making any promises to preserve the ancient site. The best they have offered at this stage is a mere token gesture of carving out the limestone holding one or two of the larger circles on the site and displaying them in a planned public plaza. However, preservation officials are pushing the city council to consider alternatives that would salvage a significant portion or even the full archaeological site. After all, MDM were well aware from the outset that their development site was inside a designated archaeological zone and that they were taking a risk when they purchased the property a decade ago.
Preservationists say there is strong and growing support for measures to save and create a major exhibit around at least some of the archaeological site. “It’s extremely important,’’ said city preservation board member Gerald Marston. “If they gave it a name, it’s the birthplace of Miami.’’