Miami Circle - Learn More - Archaeological Projects, Investigation 1

Investigation 1

The story of the Miami Circle began in May 1998 when development company Brickell Pointe Ltd. demolished the 1950s Brickell Point Apartments as the first step toward building two high-rise towers. Local ordinances required archaeological monitoring of the construction work and this quickly located undisturbed archaeological deposits and artifacts on the property.

A salvage dig began in July 1998 under the direction of the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Division with assistance from the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc. and numerous volunteers. Excavation focused on the archaeological deposits of the site, known as “midden.” Midden is derived from a Danish word and refers to all the discarded food remains, broken tools and living surfaces left behind by ancient people. Excavators soon found animal bone and shell refuse, ceramic sherds, lithic material, items of worked bone and shell, and some historic materials like glass, metal, and glazed ceramics.

When the excavators reached the limestone bedrock in some parts of the site they found holes and basins buried beneath the midden deposits. Project surveyor Ted Riggs predicted the outline of the Miami Circle feature based on the arc formed by the larger basin features exposed in some of the excavation units. Archaeologists Robert Carr and John Ricisak decided to expose the entire feature when it became clear that the site would soon be destroyed by development.

Excavation of the Miami Circle began in earnest, but by late in 1998 the media learned of the amazing discovery—a 38 foot diameter circle carved in stone at the mouth of the Miami River in the heart of downtown Miami! Sensational claims by some sources suggested the site was built by Mayan travelers or was akin to Stonehenge, despite the assertion of the archaeologists that the Miami Circle is the footprint of a prehistoric building. Public outcry over the destruction of the Miami Circle led Miami-Dade County to pursue acquisition of the 2.2-acre Brickell Point site.