The remnants of a prehistoric Native American village glowed faintly in the twilight Monday evening, history almost lost in the glare of downtown high-rises and the gleam of South Beach across the bay.
Archaeologist Bob Carr led a handful of students in placing 400 glow sticks in the postholes that form one of roughly 10 circular features in a vacant lot spanning half a city block destined to become a hotel and entertainment complex.
Archaeologists plan to repeat the low-tech project throughout the site as they finish field work over the next two months to illuminate the remnants of a Tequesta village before construction covers everything and the research is forced to move off site.
In daylight, a jumble of color-coded PVC pipes mark small postholes dug as early as 500 BC into soft limestone. The glow sticks will help define which holes were dug for circular hut-like buildings and which ones are included in a grid for what might have been elevated walkways connecting the structures over the tidal areas where the Miami River met Biscayne Bay before the city’s development.
“The prehistoric Tequesta had a complex plan for elevated structures,” Carr said. “This wasn’t just a couple of huts on the shoreline.”
The circle illuminated Monday will be covered as early as Tuesday with a tarp to protect it from construction that’s scheduled for completion in 2016. Miami’s commissioners in March approved a plan to preserve some of the archaeological finds in glass enclosures on the property.
Carr said a third to a half of the 2,000 individual postholes uncovered will be destroyed, but the finished complex will include crawl spaces to allow research on what remains to continue in the future.