Discovery of Native American village threatens to halt downtown Miami development

Evidence of an extensive Native American village has been found beneath a proposed development in downtown Miami
CBS News

MIAMI – The discovery of the remains of an extensive Native American village below downtown Miami could bring a halt to a multi-million construction project, Walter Makaula of CBS Miami reports.

Archaeologists have uncovered foundation post holes under an asphalt parking lot for what they believe were Tequesta Indian dwellings that could date back 2,000 year. The site, where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay, could be 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 Florida-based Archaeological and Historical Conservancy who was hired to survey the site.

Miami-based MDM Development Group plans to build movie theaters, restaurants and a hotel on the two-acre site. The City of Miami has already granted zoning and development approvals.

But now that evidence of at least six structures pre-dating Christ has been uncovered, Franklin said it would be a travesty if the find was destroyed.

“It’s a very extensive and well-planned engineered village,” he said. 



MDM, which has spent more than $3 million on the archaeological work, is offering to compromise and preserve two of the six post hole circles that were unearthed. It would 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,” MDM said in a statement.

But Franklin said preserving only parts of the ancient site would not be 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 post holes discovered in 1998 on the south bank of the river. The developer sold that property back to the state for 27 million dollars.

Miami's historic preservation board will meet in the next two weeks to debate what happens with this latest case.