Lifestyle & Belief

The ancient village that's right in the path of future movie theaters and restaurants in Miami


Archaeologists with the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy work on excavating a site where the conservancy found evidence that at one time, more than 1,000 years ago a Tequesta Indian village stood in Miami, Florida.


Joe Raedle

Archaeologists claim to have unearthed what could be one of the most important prehistoric sites in North America.

And it's in downtown Miami. On land slated for a multibillion-dollar entertainment complex.

Now, a fight is brewing to save what archeologists say is a 2,000-year-old Tequesta Indian village from a paved-over doom.

Archaeologists first discovered the site in 2005. Since then, they have unearthed a huge network of holes in the limestone bedrock that might have held support poles for ancient huts that sat along Miami's original shoreline. 

Linear structures that may have served as boardwalks were also found nearby.

And thousands of artifacts — as well as human bones — have been unearthed, revealing a fairly sophisticated people who traded with other parts of North America and the Caribbean.

As many as 1,000 Tequesta Indians might have called the site home.

Chief archeologist Bob Carr called it "one of the earliest urban plans in eastern North America."

The plans to build restaurants, movie theaters and a hotel already have zoning and development approvals from the City of Miami, though not a final building permit.

Developers proposed "preserving" the site by cutting out a section of the limestone, rebuilding a Tequesta structure on top of it and putting it on display in Miami's Met Square.

But archaeologists said that's not enough.

"If you have a book and you tear out a chapter, you lose the integrity of the book," Ryan Franklin of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy told WFOR. "You might have this part of it, but you lose part of the story."

Carr put it this way: "If you have a necklace filled with pearls, what makes it valuable is its entirety, not four or five pearls."

A vote by the city's Historic and Environmental Preservation Board could come later this month.