| 6 September 2003
New findings from under Miami parking-lot site
The archaeological site in the heart of downtown Miami (USA) is beginning to surrender its centuries-old secrets. Scientists digging, combing and filtering soil covered for 50 years by a parking lot found a hand ax fashioned from a conch shell, another small tool called an awl and numerous shards of ancient pottery.
Another significant discovery: South Florida's original residents -- the Tequesta Indians who occupied the site for 2,500 years -- enjoyed bay views as much as the occupants of today's condominiums, hotels and office towers. Archaeologist Bob Carr and his team have uncovered post holes just 30 feet from Biscayne Bay's original shoreline, evidence that the Tequesta lived remarkably close to the shore. ''The challenge is in connecting the dots,'' Carr said. "But it looks like we've found signs, just in this small area, of posts that would support three or four huts.''
The site -- in the center of the city's commercial district on three parking lots north of the Dupont Plaza Hotel -- served for thousands of years as the tribe's main village. The Tequesta also are believed responsible for the Miami Circle, the 38-foot-wide stone carving discovered across the Miami River in 1998 by Carr and other archaeologists.
Soon, the parking lots will become the One Miami development of luxury condominiums, stores and offices. But first, as required by law, the six-acre site must be assessed by archaeologists. Fortunately, Alison Elgart-Berry, a member of Carr's team, first found the four-inch-long hand ax, probably used as to carve wood. Then she found a three-inch-long awl -- a pointed tool that makes holes in wood or leather. Previously, the team found an ax made from non-local basalt, a stone tool that presumably found its way here through ancient trade routes.
Two basalt axes were found years ago at the Miami Circle in nearly mint condition, apparently placed at the Circle for ceremonial purposes; the ax discovered at this latest site was worn and chipped. ''This clearly was a tool that was used regularly,'' Carr said.
The Tequesta -- hunters and gatherers who worshiped animals and the sun -- thrived in the area until they were driven into exile by 1763 and eventual extinction by European explorers and their descendants.
Source: The Miami Herald (3 September 2003)
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