Known by a few different names – the Miami River Circle, Brickell Point, and The Miami Circle at Brickell Point Site – the Miami Circle was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2009, seven years after it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It all started in 1998 when property developer Michael Bauman sparked a routine archaeological survey of the site, as part of his plans to demolish the existing apartment complex to rebuild luxurious condos. But instead of giving him the green light, surveyors discovered hundreds of strange holes beneath a layer of limestone.
Following further investigations, a perfect circle was discovered, formed by 24 of the largest holes. Artifacts were also found, including human teeth and pieces of burnt wood. These wood chips were sent for radiocarbon dating, which appeared to trace the artifacts back to 1,800-2,000 years ago.
According to Atlas Obscura: “To date, Miami Circle is the only known evidence in the United States of a prehistoric structure built into bedrock.” Based on the results of the radiocarbon dating, along with the similarities in tools, it’s believed that the circle could trace back to the Tequesta Indians. Some have speculated that the holes were once part of a structure, and most likely a building for ceremonial use.
The Tequesta tribe is believed to have settled in present-day Miami, with the chief thought to have lived at the mouth of the Miami River. The tribe was made up of hunters and gatherers, who likely would have used shells and shark teeth for tools – both of which were unearthed during the excavation of the site. Only a few survivors remained by the 1800s, due to European settlement.
Considering the circle dates back over 1,000 years, it’s remarkable that 85% of it is still preserved. Currently, visitors can still see the ring of limestone, although the holes have been covered with soil and grass for protection.
There’s the opportunity to take a tour of the site from the HistoryMiami Museum to learn more about its history. Be sure to take a picnic as Miami Circle Park is a perfect spot to bask in the sun and watch the boats bobbing on the water.