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The Mysteries of the Miami Circle

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The Miami Circle, sometimes called Brickell Point or the Miami River Circle, is a perfect circle located in downtown Miami. An archaeological site made up of holes and basins, it is believed to be the only permanent structure ever cut into limestone bedrock in the entire United States. Though it wasn’t discovered until 1998, the Miami Circle is said to be between 1,700 and 2,000 years old, making it older than other East Coast archeological sites.

An apartment complex covered the Miami Circle until the late 1990’s. When the apartment complex was purchased by a developer and torn down — with the intent of building luxury condominiums — an archaeological survey was conducted and the Miami Circle was discovered. Removal of the dirt and soil surrounding the circle revealed tools, charcoal, and even human teeth.

The developer who purchased the apartment complex desired to continue building his luxury condominiums and offered to pay for the Miami Circle’s relocation. Though Miami’s mayor supported this plan, the public did not: everyone form archaeologists and curators to environmentalists and schoolchildren fought the removal, saying the circle’s integrity would be compromised.

Finally, the State of Florida Preservation 2000 land acquisition program bought the site from the condo builder in November 1999. It was purchased through state funds and donations. In 2002, the Miami Circle (listed as the Brickell Point Site) became part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Initially, it was believed Mayan or Olmec civilizations created the Miami Circle. The artifacts discovered, however, led specialists to conclude the circle was the creation of the Tequesta, a nomadic tribe in the Everglades region of Florida. Known as aggressive warriors and hunters, this tribe was made up of men and women known for killing everything from European settlers to alligators. The Tequesta tribe is believed to have gone extinct due to either war or the foreign illnesses introduced to them through visitors.

The purpose of the circle was not made entirely clear, though professors and researchers believe the holes held some kind of building or structure. This structure was believed to be either housing or a structure used for ceremonies, virtually an historic church or worshipping center. Because building a structure such as this would have taken a great amount of teamwork, experts believe it is more likely this structure was a place of worship for an entire tribe rather than housing for just a single family.

The discovery of the Miami Circle, just like the discovery of almost anything, was not without controversy. Some people argued that the circle was little more than an indentation created by a nearby Septic Tank, an argument that was refuted by the age of the circle and the fact that sewage outflow from the Septic Tank was in the opposite direction of the circle’s location.

Septic tanks aside, not everyone believes the Miami Circle is the remaining foundation of an ancient structure. It has been argued that the circle could be a celestial map, similar to the calendar used by the Mayans, or that it could be a circle that once held a formation similar to Stonehenge. Another theory suggests the holes were not used for holding up structures, but were used for holding up Totem poles. Finally, some people argue the Miami Circle is merely the work of aliens.

Whatever it’s believed to be, the Miami Circle holds some keys to Miami’s past, even if it does have researchers and archaeologists going around in, well, circles.

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