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Front Page » Top Stories » More Finds Fuel Vision Of Outdoor Miami Circle Museum

More Finds Fuel Vision Of Outdoor Miami Circle Museum

Written by on September 7, 2000

By Marilyn Bowden
Excavations at the Miami Circle have turned up more discoveries amid ongoing efforts to turn the Brickell Point site into an outdoor museum.

In the meantime, the public may soon be able to view artifacts from the site at a local museum.

This summer, said Ryan Wheeler, state supervisor of archaeological research, University of Houston archaeologist Randolph Widmer conducted two field schools at the site.

"We tried to convince him to work between the Miami Circle and an area to the east where we had found a lot of holes cut into the limestone," Mr. Wheeler said.

The Miami Circle, at the confluence of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, consists of 24 large holes cut into the limestone bedrock in a circle about 38 feet in diameter. It was discovered during routine archaeological excavations after the demolition of an apartment building to make way for new development.

Although its function is not known, archaeologists have suggested it was once the location of a Tequesta Indian building. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal samples from the site date to about AD 100.

The new holes, Mr. Wheeler said, are similar to the original 24, but larger.

"None are as obvious as the Circle," he said, "and we have not defined any additional structures."

Stephen Kilmon, president of Vialink Inc., a local high-tech surveying and mapping company, donated his services to map the hundreds of holes on site, the State of Florida’s website notes.

The digs also turned up more pottery shards and artifacts, Mr. Wheeler said.

Over the past few months a joint state and county effort has focused on stabilizing the site. As a result, the Circle and the adjacent Valley of Holes are now under a temporary cover of plastic and gravel.

No more digs are planned immediately, Mr. Wheeler said.

"We are in the analysis stage," he said, "which will take some time. It involves washing the materials collected and cataloging them.

"We may be able to get other analyses done, such as zoological tests that will tell us what foods the Tequestas ate, and perhaps soil analyses to help figure out how the midden — the black earth deposit on the site — was formed."

A British Broadcasting Corp. crew filmed the final week of Dr. Widmer’s excavations, said Chris Eck, director of the county’s historic preservation division.

The Miami Circle will definitely be preserved at the Brickell Point site, said Jim Miller, chief state archaeologist, but beyond that its fate is still up in the air.

He said eventually the Florida secretary of state will appoint a task force of county, state and city interests to begin long-term planning for the 2.2-acre area.

"We would consider public uses of the property," Mr. Wheeler said, "if they are consistent with the purpose for which it was purchased, which is preservation."

The Historical Museum of Southern Florida has a state grant to develop a museum exhibit dealing with pre-history, to include samples from the Circle, Mr. Wheeler says.

Andy Brian, director of that museum, said plans are afoot to put something together within 18 months.

"After that," he said, "we will transfer the artifacts to a permanent gallery." Details: Historical Museum of Southern Florida, (305) 375-1492;