Digging Miami, Part II

As a follow-up to the book review, here are my Cliff Notes of Digging Miami’s interesting tidbits.

It is quite startling to read that the mouth of the Miami River has been occupied for at least 2,500 years, yet we still insist on saying that Columbus “discovered” America and Ponce de Leon founded Florida (this year marks 500 years, and publicity for tourism is in full swing). How can you discover something that has already been found?

The Miami Circle remains mysterious.
The Miami Circle remains mysterious.

Descriptions of the Tequesta people indicate that they were quite adept at living alongside the dual watery worlds of the swamp and the ocean, and Carr states that by canoe they could navigate a wide swath of South Florida within hours. And to think that in Miami today, we still don’t have a water taxi.

The Tequesta settlement in Miami persisted until 1761, when Uchises Indians forced them to flee to Key West and eventually to Cuba. By 1763, Spain lost Florida to England.

Some ancient Tequesta paths have become today’s busiest highways. The ever-congested 836 Expressway follows the canoe trail that used to connect central Miami to the Everglades. Even the new Intermodal Center near the airport was built on top of a prehistoric village. I hope someone erects a sign.

I also learned that the highest natural point in Miami-Dade County is 19 feet above sea level. This sand mound is called Madden’s Hammock, and it is composed of fine-grained quartz, like beach sand. Many of its skeletons were raided by curiosity seekers.

Lastly, there’s a much more recent Bahamian cemetery (abandoned around 1940) that has been re-discovered in Lemon City, just a few miles from my house, so I plan to visit the memorial placed there in 2011 and review it for my Park Patrol column. Visions of Poltergeists danced in their heads…

By the way, this is South Florida we’re talking about–the end of the road on the East Coast. If Native Americans originally migrated from a land bridge between Asia and Alaska, how long did it take them to arrive in Miami? Did they push onwards to Cuba, or vice versa? Great mysteries indeed.

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