Monday, August 30, 2010

New Miami Circle park under way

Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research
The Miami Circle site is at the mouth of the Miami River where it empties into Biscayne Bay.  Developer Michael Baumann planned to build a luxury condominium there.

Construction has finally started on a public park at the Miami Circle archaeological site on Brickell Avenue, the Miami Herald reports.

It has been a long time coming. Archaeologists believe the site was used by the Tequestas, a native American tribe that occupied the Miami River area at the time Europeans first came to the New World.

Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research
Some archaeologists believe holes found 
in the soft limestone were for a structure.
The site was discovered in 1998 when a 1950s apartment building was demolished to make way for a high-rise condo. Of course, that means it had to have been uncovered in the 1950s when the apartment building was constructed, but it wasn't until the 1998 project that any effort was made to preserve it.

The state paid $27 million for the property to keep the site from being buried again. Now a park to give the public access to the site is under construction. Price tag: $1 million.

The Tequestas lived in an area from about mid-Broward County all the way down the coast including Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys and around the tip of Florida to Cape Sable. Archaeologists believe the tribe's main town, Tequesta, was probably at the mouth of the Miami River. You can read more about the Tequestas here.

The site is a 38-foot-wide, ground-level circle. Holes carved in the limestone base were postholes for a round structure, some archaeologists believe. However, there is controversy over the age and purpose of the site.

Indeed, well-known Florida archaeologist Jerald Milanich suggested the holes were nothing more than a sink for a modern septic tank that was part of the apartment complex. But John Ricisak, a Miami-Dade historic preservation specialist, disagreed. Ricisak says the complex plans called for septic flow into the Miami River so a sink wouldn't have been needed.

Many artifacts have been found at the site, including pieces of burnt wood that have been carbon dated to 1,800 to 2,000 years old.  Archaeologists continue to debate the Miami Circle and continue to study it. It's a debate that's likely to continue for a long time, they say.

You can read more about the Miami Circle here and here.

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