The Japan Times
November 4, 1999

Miami Circle revealed to be 2,000-year-old town

MIAMI (Reuters) Charred wood fragments suggesting the construction of dugout canoes, together with carbon-dating tests on bones and charcoal, show that the downtown Miami Circle was probably the site of a thriving American Indian town, archaeologists said Tuesday.

Nearly two weeks after starting an extensive survey of a weedy patch of prime riverfront land in Miami's banking district, archaeologists also said they had found more holes similar to those that form the Miami Circle, a suspected Indian relic about 2,000 years old.

"It tends to suggest there may be other features similar to the Miami Circle that are out here," Florida archaeologist Ryan Wheeler said.

As he spoke, Wheeler stood at the edge of the nearly one-hectare site at the juncture of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, where the discovery of the ancient stone formation halted construction of a $100-million condominium.

The site flashed to international fame when archaeologists last year found a series of basins and holes, apparently hacked into solid rock with sticks or Conch shells, forming a perfect circle 11.5 meters in diameter.

"We know from the depth of the deposits that occupation of this site may have begun as early as 500 B.C. and certainly right up until the period of Spanish contact," archaeologist Bob Carr said. "This was a continuously occupied site."

Experts theorize the circle was formed by post holes probably dug by members of the Tequesta tribe as the foundation for a ceremonial lodge or priest's house centuries ago, before the arrival of Europeans in Florida.

The discovery pitted conservationists and Indian groups, who consider the site sacred, against developers who were ready to bulldoze the land to build a glitzy condominium tower and commercial project.

Miami-Dade County ultimately stepped in and halted construction to preserve the circle then worked a deal with the developer to buy the land for $26.7 million.

Work crews using augers have dug about 100 new holes in a grid pattern across the site during the last two weeks aiming to authenticate a theory that the site was a Tequesta Indian village dating back thousands of years.

"It's filled with animal bones. It's filled with shells, mostly the things that are by-products of people's meals," Wheeler said.