Indian Burial Grounds Discovered in Miami
Monday, January 16, 2006
MIAMI — Archaeologists excavating two
American Indian burial
sites in downtown Miami say they have found hundreds of remains piled in
limestone fissures, some of them stacked in stone burial boxes.
The remains are at least five centuries old and likely are the ancestors of
the Tequesta tribe that met explorer
Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 when he claimed the land for Spain,
"The idea of a crypt-like structure, that's never been observed anywhere in
South Florida before," said Robert Carr, director of
the Archaeological and
Bone piles were discovered in at least five fissures on the former site of
railroad magnate Henry Flagler's 19th-century
Royal Palm Hotel, Carr said Thursday. The site is near a burial
mound that was destroyed more than 100 years ago.
Two other burial boxes called ossuaries have been
discovered in the area, but they contained the remains of no more than a dozen
people, he said.
The tribe probably kept the bones aboveground for some time before burying
them in mass — scooping out soil in the fissures, burying the bones and then
covering the grave, State Archaeologist Ryan Wheeler said.
"In terms of the rest of Florida, we've never seen anything that's been the
same," Wheeler said. "It's a very unusual mode of burial."
Archaeologists have been excavating the site since 2003. A condominium
development is planned for it.
The second site under excavation, where another condominium development is
being built, dates back about 2,000 years, and burials there appear to be
individual, Wheeler said.
The site is near the original shoreline of Biscayne Bay. Carr
speculated the Tequestas may have prepared bodies there for burial. The tribe
was known to lay bodies on the beach to be "de-fleshed by the crabs and the
vultures," he said.
Archaeologists will study and catalog the remains and re-inter them on the
They have long known that a wealth of archaeological material is buried
under downtown Miami.
Archaeologists excavated a village on the north shore of the Miami River in
the 1980s. The Miami Circle, a round limestone formation 38 feet in diameter
believed to be the foundation of a prehistoric structure of the Tequestas, was
discovered in the 1990s.