Digging Miami

Digging Miami

Digging Miami

Digging Miami


The pace of change of Miami since its incorporation in 1896 is staggering. The seaside land that once was home to several thousand Tequesta is now congested with roads and millions of people while skyscrapers and artificial lights dominate the landscape.

Ironically, Miami's development both continually erases monuments and traces of indigenous people and historic pioneers yet also leads to the discovery of archaeological treasures that have lain undiscovered for centuries. In Digging Miami, Robert Carr traces the rich 11,000-year human heritage of the Miami area from the time of its first inhabitants through the arrival of European settlers and up toury old.

This comprehensive synthesis of South Florida's archaeological record will astonish readers with the depth of information available throughout an area barely above sea level. Likewise, many will be surprised to learn that modern builders, before beginning construction, must first look for signs of ancient peoples' lives, and this search has led to the discovery of over one hundred sites within the county in recent years. In the end, we are left with the realization that Miami is more than the dream of entrepreneurs to create a tourist mecca built on top of dredged rock and sand; it is a fascinating, vibrant spot that has drawn humans to its shores for unimaginable years.


If urban archaeology in Miami has accomplished anything during the past thirty years, it is that it has forged a sense of community from the flotsam of artifacts and sites representing ten thousand years of human endeavor. To reach back and touch the source of who we are and to know that Miami is more than the dream of entrepreneurs to create a tourist mecca and a city built on top of dredged rock and sand is to move closer to the truth.

Archaeology matters because we are curious and vain about ourselves. We are often temporal-centric in believing that we are living in the best of times and astonished that humans could have been fulfilled in that ancient dark age of B.C. (before computers). Though living in the high rise of civilization may have its rewards, with endless choices of products, restaurants, and leisure time, it is the look backward that can illuminate our understanding of who we are. Below our high-rise view of modern life is the basement of civilization, where concrete blocks are underlain by nineteenth-century red bricks, and below the bricks are the wooden post molds of Indian houses constructed a thousand years before.

Who is to say with authority that today’s Miami is somehow superior to the ancient Miami of endless forests and sweet water rushing seaward in the Miami River from the Everglades. We have reshaped the land, cut its forest, and bulldozed most every square foot in the county at least once. Some downtown properties are on their fourth generation of new buildings, each construction preceded by the demolition of an older building that had become obsolete. Only the hammock forests that survive at Simpson Park, Alice Wainwright Park, and the Deering Estate at Cutler have missed the ache of heavy equipment gouging deep into the muck and limestone, stripping the skin of rich organic soils to create the economy of modern life.

It is this enterprise of progress that continues to erase the monuments and traces of the indigenous people and historic pioneers. Ironically, it is . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.