MIAMI, Florida (CBS4) - A multi-million dollar construction project in
Downtown Miami could come to a screeching halt because of what
archaeologists believe is evidence of an extensive Native American
village buried beneath the area.
An old asphalt parking lot used to sit on the site for almost seven
decades. For several months, archaeologists have dug up evidence and
uncovered foundation post holes for what they believe were Tequesta
Indian dwellings which may go back as far as 2,000 years. If so, then the
site, which is where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay, is likely one
of the most significant prehistoric sites of its kind in the country.
"It would be ideal for Miami to have this part of its history
preserved," said Ryan Franklin of the Archaeological and Historical
Conservancy, who is the site's field director.
The problem is the site is being prepared for major construction.
Developer MDM already has plans to build movie theaters, restaurants
and a hotel on the two-acre site area located on the corner of SE 3rd
avenue and SE 4th street. The City of Miami has already granted approval
for zoning and development of the project.
But evidence of at least six structures pre-dating Christ, postholes
in a foundation of limestone, were uncovered here. Franklin said it
would be a travesty if this find is destroyed.
"It's a very extensive and well-planned engineered village," he said.
The archaeological process has already cost MDM more than $3 million
and changes to their plans would be astronomical. Instead, MDM said it's
willing to compromise and preserve two of the six posthole circles that
were unearthed. The developer offered to also display them in a public
plaza included in the current plans.
"We look forward to execution of a plan that will preserve for all
time some of the significant finds and allow the public to gain a sense
of the civilization that once lived on this site," according to a
statement by MDM.
But Franklin said preserving only a couple of parts of the ancient site isn't enough.
"If you have a book and you tear out a chapter, you lose the
integrity of the book," he said. "You might have this part of it, but
you lose part of the story."
A similar heated dispute took place to save the Miami Circle. A set
of postholes discovered in 1998 on the south bank of the river opposite
the river from the newly uncovered Tequesta village site.
The developer sold the property back to the state in that case for $27
million. The city's historic preservation board will meet in
the next two weeks to debate what happens with this latest case.
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