Ancient Native American site could stymie Miami high-rise developers

Tue Feb 4, 2014 6:05pm EST
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - The unearthing of the remains of a 2,000-year-old Native American village where downtown Miami meets Biscayne Bay has thrown a wrench into a multibillion-dollar development project that survived the city's real estate and financial meltdown.

Archaeologists first discovered the Tequesta Indian site in 2005, when developers began excavation at what had been a parking lot. Since then they have uncovered eight circles of holes in the limestone bedrock where supports for huts may once have stood.

"We're getting a glimpse of what might be one of the earliest town plans in eastern North America," said archaeologist Robert Carr, who was hired to survey the site by the developer, Miami-based MDM Development Group.

The ancient site sits in the heart of Miami's latest real estate boom, surrounded by luxury condo towers with names like Icon and Epic.

Across the street is a luxury JW Marriott Marquis hotel, where professional basketball players stay when in town to play the Miami Heat, as well as some of Miami's newest high-end restaurants, where celebrities are spotted nightly.

A similar circle of holes drilled into the rock, called the Miami Circle, was uncovered nearby in 1998 and is thought to have once been a ceremonial Tequesta meeting place for the native American tribe. That discovery led to a developer being forced to sell the land back to the city. The site is now a city park.

MDM's plans for the site of the newly discovered Tequesta circles include a movie theater, restaurants and a 34-story hotel covering an entire city block, including the archaeological site. The tower is part of the four-phase Met Miami project, which includes the already completed JW Marriott, an office building anchored by Wells Fargo and a 447-unit condo tower overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Over the past nine years archaeologists have uncovered thousands of artifacts - as well as human bones - that show the Tequestas conducted trade with other parts of North America and the Caribbean.   Continued...