|12 March 1999
Puzzling circle unearthed beneath downtown Miami
What is likely prehistoric ruins from an extinct tribe have been unearthed on land slated for a condominium high-rise in Miami (U.S.A.).
The discovery of a perfect circle 38 feet in diameter, formed of dozens of holes bored into the limestone bedrock with rudimentary tools and located just a few steps from the mouth of the Miami River, has captured the imagination of city dwellers. One of the carved holes faces directly east, toward Biscayne Bay, and is in the shape of an eye with a stone pupil. The mouth of the Miami River would have been a preferred place to be if you were a prehistoric hunter and gatherer, said John M. Ricisak, historic preservation specialist with Miami-Dade County.
Researchers believe that most likely the oval is some type of religious building for the Tequesta Indians and that many of the carved holes probably held posts. The tribe lived in South Florida before being wiped out by war and disease once Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed on the Peninsula in 1513 in his quest for the Fountain of Youth. But another theory also has been advanced: that the circle is a celestial calendar, perhaps made by a breakaway band of Mayas. It looks like Stonehenge in negative. Instead of stones -- holes, said T. L. Riggs, a surveyor who has studied Mayan culture. Some of the holes in the circle were meticulously cut into the shapes of marine creatures, such as the manatee, turtle and dolphin, Riggs said. This is unique in the world. I don't think anyone has ever discovered where glyphs have been carved into the ground, he said. But Michael Coe, a Yale University professor and leading expert on Mayan culture, downplayed the likelihood that the circle is Mayan.
Pottery shards date the site at least 2,000 years, but the prehistoric structure circle probably dates back to around 1100. Just before Christmas another clue surfaced: the complete remnants of a 5-foot shark. It suggests it was buried for a purpose, it was buried as an offering, Ricisak said.
Large quantities of flint and two ax heads fashioned from basalt were found at the site; neither occurs naturally in south Florida. That the building is built on a perfect east-west axis to mark the equinox may mean it was used to mark the seasons or for religious purposes.
Sources: Associated Press, The Washington Post
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