Miami Circle - Historic Timeline
10,000 years ago
The earliest sites found in Miami-Dade County suggest that people lived in the area during the Late PaleoIndian and Early Archaic periods, at least by nine or ten thousand years ago. At a cave-like sinkhole called the Cutler Fossil site excavators found bones of animals from the late Pleistocene, possibly a dire wolf den, as well as stone artifacts representative of this early horizon. Scientists think the area around the Cutler Fossil site was a forested and surrounded by open, savannah-like grasslands and open marshes and wetlands. This suggests that water sources were available at this time in southeastern Florida and that other early sites might be associated with similar sinkhole features that predate the development of the Everglades.
5,000 - 2,500 years ago
Archeological sites dating from the Middle to Late Archaic, around 5,000 to 2,500 years ago, are better known than the earlier sites. Archaeologists have found sites from this era within the Everglades and on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. Robert S. Carr and his colleagues describe a site on the Pine Island Ridge in Broward County that had a scatter of lithic flakes and Middle Archaic stone tools. Other sites of the Archaic are characterized by midden deposits and or cemetery sites. Interestingly, fiber-tempered ceramics are rare or absent at many of the Late Archaic sites from the area as opposed to coastal shell mounds of the same time period.
2,500 - 500 years ago
By 2,500 years ago the inhabitants of the Everglades and adjacent coastal areas had begun making simple, undecorated ceramic vessels and soon after added an array of simple geometric designs. Archaeologists recognized that the so-called Glades pottery designs changed through time and could be used to date the age of sites. Despite subtle changes in pottery it is likely that the inhabitants of southeastern Florida at 2,500 years ago are the ancestors of the Tequesta Indians who met Ponce de Leon some one thousand years later. The ancestral Tequesta peoples developed distinctive tools of bone and shell and a diet based on tropical and subtropical plants and animals. The Tequesta and their ancestors apparently participated in regional and long-distance exchange networks, contributing items like pumice, marine shells, shark teeth, and dried whale meat. In return they received items like stone tools and minerals for making paint.
European contact with the Tequesta and their neighbors is recorded primarily in Spanish documents. The Tequesta are one of the earliest American Indian groups of North America mentioned by the Spanish. The historian Antonio de Herrera provides an account of Ponce de Leon's 1513 and 1521 exploratory trips to Florida, including a mention of a place called "Chequescha," which is likely Tequesta.
Despite the early encounters, intensive contact did not begin until 1567 when Pedro MenÃ©ndez de AvilÃ©s founded a mission at Tequesta as part of a broader plan to establish a permanent Spanish presence in Florida. The mission was abandoned after hostility broke out between the Indians and the Spanish soldiers stationed there. During this period the Tequesta engaged in tributary and political relationships with neighboring tribes. The Tequesta were sometimes allied with their neighbors in the Florida Keys, and they used dugout canoes to hunt right whales, drying their meat for barter with inland groups. Alliances between groups were often cemented through marriages, and the chief of the Tequesta was a "near relative" of the chief of the Calusa, with whom the Tequesta were someÂ¬time allied and sometimes hostile.
Accounts of the Tequesta become infrequent after the flurry of contact with the Spanish in 1566-1570. Interestingly, the name "Tequesta" seems to fall into disuse in Spanish documents after 1600.
Bishop DÃaz Vara CalderÃ³n describes the area in 1675, and indicates that the people of southern Florida are "13 tribes of savage heathen Carib Indians, in camps, having no fixed abodes, living only on fish and roots of trees." Among these he lists "Vizcaynos," a reference to those natives living on Biscayne Bay. Following the collapse of the Spanish missions in north Florida, increasing attacks and slave raids by Uchise and Yamasee Indians led a large group of native Floridians to petition for evacuation to Cuba.
When the Spanish reestablish a mission in 1743 the site appears to be within the territory of the Tequesta, though the inhabitants of the mission town are described as remnants of three groups-Keys, Carlos, and Bocaraton. The accounts of this late mission attempt are fascinating, since they demonstrate considerable historical continuity with the archeological record and earlier accounts of the sixteenth century.
Final mentions of the natives of southern Florida, however, indicate that in 1763, as the territory was turned over to the British, most of the surviving Indians moved to Cuba with their Spanish allies. Despite the accounts that indicate a close to the native traditions of southern Florida, it seems likely that some descendants of the Tequesta and their neighbors persisted in southern Florida after 1763. Several sources indicate that the eighteenth century Seminole were aware of the Florida natives who preceded them.