The Mysterious 'Miami Circle'
Property developer Michael Bauman was in for a real surprise when
he purchased a plot of land in downtown Miami in 1998. Bauman's plans
for the land were seemingly simple: demolish a 1950-era apartment
complex and build a luxury condominium in its place.
routine archaeological survey of the site, however, hundreds of
mysterious holes were discovered in a layer of Oolitic limestone bedrock
and Bauman's development plans immediately came to a halt. Through
further investigation, twenty-four of the largest holes comprised a
perfect circle, 38 feet (12 m) in diameter, and excavation results found
a variety of artifacts ranging from human teeth to ancient tools.
in the artifacts were pieces of burnt wood which, after being tested
for radiocarbon dating, are believed to be 1800-2000 years old. To date,
Miami Circle is the only known evidence in the United States of a
prehistoric structure built into bedrock. Evidence from this mysterious
prehistoric "footprint" predates other known settlements along the East
The site is believed to have once been occupied by the
Tequesta Indians, a local tribe whose known tools matched some of the
tooth-related artifacts found during excavation. Theorists have
suggested that the holes were structural postholes or part of the
for a building. Some believe the building was used for ceremonial
purposes, as animal bones and unused tools appeared to be
these tools were two axe-heads made from basalt,a hard stone that is
not indigenous to Florida. The finding of these
the theory that the site was occupied by the Tequesta,however, as the
volcanic rock is believed to have been from a location in Macon, Georgia
- some 600 miles (970 km) away from the site.
origin of the site has led to its nickname as "America's Stonehenge",
(though there are a number of sites nicknamed this) and
and conspiracy theorists have offered alternative theories.Aliens,
Mayans and septic tanks are among some of the suggested origins or the
The State of Florida eventually purchased the land from
Baumann after a series of high-profile disputes between NativeAmerican
groups, contractors, and historic preservation committees. Miami Circle,
otherwise known as Brickell Point or the Miami River
declared a National Historic Landmark in early 2009 and is currently
under a 44-year lease agreement with the Historical Museum of Southern
Florida. Visitors interested in the history of the Miami Circlecan view
artifacts on display through the museum's permanent exhibition: "First
Arrivals: The Archaeology of Southern Florida."
The Miami Circle was
discovered in August/September, 1998, during routine archaeo-logical
investigations conducted at the site of six low-rise, 1950-era apartment
buildings (Brickell Point Apartments), which were razed to make way for
construction of two high-rise apartment towers. Surveyor Ted Riggs
uncovered an arc-like section and was convinced this would be a circle
incised into the stone, underneath the three feet of overlying Earth.
Miami Circle is located within archaeological site 8DA1212, aka "Miami
Midden #2" or "The Brickell Point Site." It is situated on a 2.2 +/-
acre parcel that is located along the southern bank of the Miami River,
where the River meets Biscayne Bay. The Miami Circle is characterized
primarily by a series of 24 main basin "rectangles" which have been cut
almost 2 feet deep into the site's oolitic limestone bedrock , 6 smaller
ones, and hundredsof random "post holes." The 30 large and small
"rectangular basins" form a ring geometry approximately 37 feet in
diameter, with the approximately 500 smaller round holes scattered
randomly across the
entire circle's width, if not beyond.
the amount of modern construction (and demolition) that has taken place
on top of the
site, the Miami Circle is remarkably intact -- with
approximately 85% ofit preserved. The Brickell Point property contains
midden deposits on at least 50% - 75% of the
parcel. This material contains a tremendous quantity of well-preserved
shell, bone, ceramics,
and other artifacts deposited during several
centuries of human occupation.
The "mainstream" opinion says "the
Tequesta Indians,a group of Southern Florida native Americans who
inhabited the area
from about 2000 years ago to after the Spanish
arrived -- spanning roughly the same dates as the artifacts recovered
from the Circle's
"holes." A minority opinion (Riggs, Hoagland, et
al) says MUCH older .. by a sophisticated people who lived here long
before the Tequestas were in the area ... perhaps as much as 10,000 to
13,000 years ago.
Archaeological evidence suggests the Miami
Circle marks the footprint [foundation] of a large, prehistoric
structure, possibly the "foundations for a 'Coucil House,' or other
ceremonial structure created by native Americans known
Tequesta. The evidence also suggests that the Miami Circle had
ceremonial importance to the Tequesta:
* Cardinal points (i.e.
North, South, East, and West) along the Miami Circle appear to have
beenspecially denoted. In particular, an eye-shaped hole was cut into
the bedrock at the Circle's eastern point. Its shape was unique among
hundreds of holes uncovered at the site.
* Two possible animal
offerings, a complete sea turtle carapace and the articulated remains of
a shark more than six feet in length, were found within the Circle's
interior. Each was oriented east-west, a practice often associated
withprehistoric human burials.
* Several teeth belonging to an
extinct species of seal were found within the Miami Circle. Spanish
explorer's accounts indicate that the consumption of monk seals, or
"seawolves," were reserved for the elite class.
finely-craftedstone axes were found found along the Miami Circle's
eastern portion. One of these was recovered from within a posthole cut
into the bedrock, and possibly represents an offering. Both axes were
made of basalt, a volcanic rock that is not native toFlorida.
minority scientists say that the structure's puzzling ring-shaped array
of 30 rectangular "basins" are more analogous to England's "Stonehenge"
-- once serving as the "foundation slots" for a ring of 30 upright
stones, which once stood in the currently surviving geometric bedrock
basins "an archeo-astronomical "stonehenge-like device," for observing
the solstices and equinoxes, as well as other astronomically-based
ceremonial uses ..."
At present, two radiocarbon date
determinations have been completed. Charcoal samples collected from
within one of the Miami Circle's cut basins and from the midden within
the Miami Circle both dated to circa 100 A.D. Human occupation of the
site may date to well over two thousands years ago.
Circle archaeological site is regarded as being of local, regional, and
statewide significance. The Miami Circle may also be of national
significance, as it is believed to be the only cut-in-rock prehistoric
structural footprint ever found in eastern North America. The site
potentially qualifies for listing in the National Register of Historic
Places. If we fail to preserve the Circle, a priceless , untouched
of a previously unsuspected sophistication in "archaic North American
architecture," as well as important new clues as to the reasonsfor
astronomically-based indigenous ceremonial centers will be lost.
The Miami Circle, though architecturally unique (carved basins in the
limestone bedrock), has at least one other potetially significant analog
in North America: the ancient circle of wooden post holes -- called
"Woodhenge 2" -- placed on the summit of a massive earthen "Indian
known as "Cahokia," located across the river from St.Louis, Missouri.
Mayor of Miami-Dade County, the Honorable Alex Penelas, signed an
"eminent domain decree" last February, setting in motion a legal process
for County acquisition and preservation of the Miami River Circle site.
An "eminent domain" trial is set to begin October 4th to decide the
actual purchase price of the land. If the County cannot raise the
necessary funds in time (the exact amount to be dermined by the jury),
the land will then revert back to the developer:Michael Baumann.. The
County needs massive financial help, as the current "save the circle"
fund is far short of even what the developer originally paid for the
The developer, Michael Bauman, originally paid slightly
over 8 million dollars for the 2.2 acre site at the mouth of the Miami
River. He is now claiming additional costs in architetural development,
lost revenues due to the eminent domain proceeding, etc., totalling in
excess of 50million dollars. Ultimately,based on evidence presented by
the County and the developer at trial, a jury of twelve men and woman
selected from the normal jury pool in the Miami area will decide what
the Circle site is worth in today's market -- and award Mr.Baumann
Mysterious 'Miami Circle'