Prehistoric Native American Artifacts Discovered in Miami at Location for Planned Brickell High-Rise

The ancient remains were discovered beneath what was a parking garage for the four-story U.S. Custom House that was built in 1972

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Archeologists overseeing the demolition of what used to be a parking garage located at the 444 Brickell property in Miami say they have discovered prehistoric artifacts there.

The newly uncovered deposits could contribute to the knowledge of z prehistoric subsistence and the settlement patterns of the Tequesta – the Native American tribe that once occupied the area – the archeologists said.

If confirmed, this land would be eligible for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The recent findings at the site include bone artifacts (points, pins, drilled shark teeth), pumice, lithic weight and pottery sherds.

The ancient remains were discovered beneath what was a parking garage for the four-story U.S. Custom House that was built in 1972. Miami historian Dr. Paul George says archeology in the area has really just begun since that time.

“We’ve moved forward and now understand the importance of archeology in places that are considered potentially important and certainly the river is important and its banks are important,” Dr. George says.

“So much of the important finds, excavations, have been done along the Miami River and it’s obvious because it’s a waterway,” Dr. George explains. “A source of water – fish, locomotion, getting from one place to another – so early people certainly used that.”

The developer for the lot, Related Group, is planning three towers of up to 82 stories and a baywalk on the property, including Baccarat Residences. The towers are planned to have a total of 1,400 residential units, along with office, hotel and retail space.

“The entire area near the mouth of the Miami River is within an archeological zone,” a spokesperson from Related Group told NBC 6. “The assessment report Related submitted, through our consultant, is part of the process of excavating activities for any site in an archeological zone. Our consultant, the Archeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc., is one of the foremost experts in the archeological history of downtown Miami.”

“Related has and will continue to fully comply with all existing government regulations for developing within the zone” the spokesman said.

A notice of discovery was issued to City of Miami historic preservation staff on April 10, and archeologists are recommending a second phase of assessment to determine the significance of the findings.

The property sits on the Miami River, just west of the Miami Circle -- another prehistoric site.

Discovered in 1998, the Miami Circle is widely believed to be the location of a structure built by the Tequesta. Upon its discovery, the site was purchased by the state of Florida and Miami-Dade County and later declared a national historic landmark.

“There was such a crescendo on the part of the public to preserve it that they preserved it,” Dr. George says.

As for the future of the latest site at 444 Brickell, Dr. George said it will largely depend on the importance of the site and what’s found there.

“I know the Related Group are very responsible when it comes to their appreciation for history, art and things of that nature,” said Dr. George.

Whatever the outcome may be, the discoveries will certainly give us a better look at how Miami’s earliest inhabitants lived thousands of years ago.

“When I get a chance to study what’s uncovered in this latest excavation that we’re talking about, I’m sure I’ll get a much deeper insight into them and even a richer feeling toward them,” said Dr. George.

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