Monday, August 20, 2012

History of Miami Circle

Miami has an international reputation as a jet setter’s paradise, full of sun, sand and vibrant nightlife. Even locals overlook the area’s rich historic culture and artifacts. One of the questions newcomers to the area most frequently ask has to do with the Miami Circle, that huge circle on the ground in Brickell between the river and Icon Brickell.

miami circle icon brickell

Not many metropolitan areas can boast of an important archaeological site within their borders, but Miami can and does.

And with good cause: archaeologists tell us that it is the only known evidence of its kind in the United States.

How was it Found?
Miami Circle was, for many years, hidden beneath the foundation of an old apartment building at 401 Brickell Avenue. The archaeological wonder saw daylight again in 1998, when the apartment building was demolished to make way for a luxury condominium building in Brickell.

Before building on the site, however, the developer performed an archaeological field survey, per City of Miami building regulations. The excavation team, composed of volunteers and employees of the Archaeological & Historical Conservancy, eventually unearthed the site.

The team found 24 holes, cut into Oolitic limestone bedrock, formed into a perfect, 38-foot circle. The site also included artifacts such as human teeth, tools made of shell and charcoal from ancient fires.

Debate raged for over a year as to the circle’s fate. The developer wanted it moved to a more suitable site while the area’s historians, Native American tribes and archaeologists fought against the idea, fearing destruction of important artifacts.

Eventually, Michael Baumann, the developer, sold the land the site sits on to the State of Florida for $26.7 million.

Who Built Miami Circle?
Archaeologists believe the circle was built by the Tequesta Indians between 1,700 and 2,000 years ago. Both its age and its authenticity are subjects of debate in the scientific community.

Be that as it may, Miami Circle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2009.

What was its Purpose?
While nobody knows for certain, scholars believe that the holes were postholes to hold structure supports. Because of Florida’s frequent flooding they suggest that the structure was elevated, such as on stilts.

Because the construction of the structure would have required a massive effort, and the cooperation of a great many members of the tribe, historians also suggest that it served some sort of ceremonial or religious purpose.

Location of the Miami Circle
The Miami Circle is accessible from the Icon Brickell’s driveway or through Brickell Park at 501 Brickell Avenue. For a treat, plan your visit for a Tuesday evening at 6pm. That is when local shaman Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez holds her weekly candlelight vigil, and speaks with visitors about Miami Circle’s archaeological significance.

icon brickell miami circle park

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