On a “exceptional” Native American location, high-rises will be constructed.
In this Miami construction site, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of documentation from Tequesta’s prehistoric settlement. via Getty Images, Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune
In one of this seashore city’s poshest areas, a humming crew of archaeologists has been excavating a vast waterfront property for over two years. On some days, there are more than 120 researchers working on it. One million items total and ancient human bones discovered by the diggers are shedding new light on Tequesta, a significant Native American town that flourished near the Miami River’s mouth about 2000 years ago.
Archaeologist Traci Ardren of the University of Miami (UM), who is not involved in the dig, calls the location “really spectacular.” Among the noteworthy finds, according to her, are prehistoric wooden tools and plant materials that are uncommon in Florida’s subtropical environment, as well as copper and stone artifacts that show Tequesta engaged in active commerce with far-off cultures. According to Ardren, researchers know relatively little about Miami’s early inhabitants and he anticipates the discoveries to “contribute significantly to our understanding.”
The excavation, however, which city regulations compelled a developer to carry out before constructing three opulent high-rises, has also sparked a bitter dispute over how Miami, which supporters hail as a “new city,” should acknowledge and protect its historic heritage. A loose coalition of archaeologists, Native Americans, and preservationists wants the city to oblige the developer to donate the enormous artifact collection to a college or museum and to provide funds to research the collection and disseminate discoveries to the general public. Archaeologist William Pestle from the University of Michigan is one of the campaign’s organizers and says, “We can’t just let this valuable collection rot in some warehouse.”