New Native American site halts book publishing, sparks new research

Image by Phillip Pessar, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Rebeca Piccardo/Assistant News Director

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Professor Mary Lou Pfeiffer walking at the Miami Circle Park. Image provided by Mary Lou Pfeiffer.

Until a few weeks ago, the Miami Circle was the only archeological site that was considered culturally significant for the history of Miami. Now, six new circles have been uncovered that reveal further findings about the Tequesta Indians.

For Professor Mary Pfeiffer, senior faculty fellow in the Honors College, this means holding off the publication date of her book about her research on the Miami Circle, which she started about 10 years ago before she became a faculty member at the University.

“This new site might be more significant than the Miami Circle,” said Pfeiffer.

Back when the Miami Circle was discovered, she participated in efforts to prevent the circle from being destroyed by developers. The “Save the Circle” movement proved to be successful.

Now Pfeiffer, along with other key players in the conservation society, including Head Archaeologist of the Miami Circle Robert Carr, is looking to save these new circles.[pullquote]“I thought the manuscript was complete and preparing for publishing when a another construction project on the north side of the Miami River called Met Square,” said Pfeiffer.[/pullquote]

“I have a completed manuscript on the Miami Circle, a Tequesta Indian relic unearthed in 1998 on a 2.2 acre parcel of land on the south side of the Miami River where it empties into Biscayne Bay,” said Pfeiffer in a statement of significance she drafted.

The discovery of the Miami Circle was significant at the time because it was proof of the existence of the Tequesta natives and that they were the earliest inhabitants in the area that is now Miami.

The discovery of the new circles further corroborates there were tribal peoples in the area about 1,400- 2,000 years ago, according to Pfeiffer’s written statement of significance.

Pfeiffer’s non-fiction book, which focuses on her studies and personal encounters with the uncovering on the site, is her account of the efforts to save the Miami Circle. However, the recent discovery has caused her to halt the publication of her book in order to include the new research on the new site.

“I thought the manuscript was complete and prepared for publishing when a another construction project on the north side of the Miami River called Met Square was uncovered,” said Pfeiffer.

The new Met Square site revealed several perfect circles in the bedrock with interconnected paths between them.

Since the new discovery, Pfeiffer and student volunteers from the Honors College have worked to declare a statement of significance to establish the cultural and historical value of these new sites along with the Miami Circle.

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“Save the Circle” spelled out with stones at the Miami Circle site. Image provided by Mary Lou Pfeiffer.

Florencia Dominguez, a senior and international relations major, has volunteered to help Pfeiffer with research and wrote her own statement of significance about the Tequesta sites.

“To exchange the magic of culture and history for a building is not a fair trade-off — at least not for most of us,” said Dominguez. She considers the new site worth preserving as a historical relic rather than allowing the developers to build more commercial property.

“I find it unbelievable that the discovery of the largest Tequesta site may be eventually cleared for development,” said Fu Zhou Wu, a senior and international relations major. Wu is also a part of Pfeiffer’s team of student researchers, and considers that these Tequesta sites are unique historical landmarks.

Another researcher, Joanna Rodriguez, a junior and criminal justice major, considers the value of the sites towards education about the unearthed history of Miami’s native tribes.

“Education has an enormous role within this site because we can spread the knowledge of the early indigenous South Florida Tribe called the Tequesta,” said Rodriguez.

According to Pfeiffer’s written statements about the site, “the current developer had purchased the downtown parking lots with intent of revitalizing the area. Contracts are in place for retail stores and a movie theater on the Tequesta village Met Square site.”

Pfeiffer, along with the student researchers, is actively participating with other members of the preservation society to advocate to Miami-Dade County to request the development to preserve this new site.

Many preservationists find themselves once again working to save a unique cultural heritage site from destruction. I am revising the manuscript to include this important new discovery,” said Pfeiffer.

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